A Roadblock Leads to a More Rewarding Path

Reporter Lois Lane in a scene from the cartoon, "The Arctic Giant" (1942)
Reporter Lois Lane in a scene from the cartoon, “The Arctic Giant” (1942)

By Judy Berman

Sometimes, it’s best not to ignore those nagging voices inside your head. The ones that tell you, maybe, you should rethink what you’re doing.

My moment of clarity came when a recruiter at a place I wanted to work at told me I didn’t appear to be the “go-to person” at my job. That’s not exactly what I expected – or wanted – to hear.

In basketball terms, the go-to-person is the one who other players throw the ball to when they are in a difficult spot and they want their team to score.

His harsh words prompted me to assess what I was doing and what I needed to change.

Just what were my options? Curling up in a fetal position and pounding my fists on the floor? Carrying the taste of defeat and bitterness with me for years? Or resigning myself to working in a job that I didn’t enjoy or find challenging?

His myopic view of my capabilities didn’t mesh with my own. Negativity just wears you down and out. It distracts you from achieving your goals. I’m reminded of Sean Connery’s character, (as Jim Malone, an Irish beat cop), in the movie, “The Untouchables.” Connery confronts Eliot Ness about how he plans to respond to mobster Al Capone, “What are you prepared to do?”

I chose to re-evaluate my career. I looked at the work and actions of those I admired. My mission was to become the type of person employers wanted.

Then, a strange thing happened. As I transformed, my stock rose in management’s eyes.

Still frame from the animated cartoon "Superman: Billion Dollar Limited" (1942)
No longer the mild-mannered reporter.                                                                      [“Superman: Billion Dollar Limited” (1942)]

About three years later, no longer the mild-mannered reporter, I wrote a letter to that recruiter and thanked him for his comments during that job interview. I told him that he had inspired me to make changes at work, and the response from my bosses was positive.

Shortly before I wrote that letter, my employer had named me Employee of the Month for front-page stories I’d written about a man who had been in isolation for three months even though a jury had cleared him of any wrongdoing in a prison riot. After my stories ran, the state reversed its decision and released the man to the general prison population.

That same week, my editor wrote in my annual review that I’d become the “go-to reporter when we have a tough nut to crack.”

How sweet that was.

I never received a response to my letter. But that wasn’t necessary. I had turned a negative into a positive. That brutal discussion, years earlier, forced me to re-examine what I was doing and to look at alternate ways to approach my job. As I did so, I fell back in love with my job. I felt valued and I was in a working environment where I could bloom and grow. The bonus was I was working with and for people I liked and respected.

Sometimes life’s lessons reveal that the only thing that needs changing is how we look at things and how we respond to them.

As Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

Movie clip – Nine to Five – I didn’t work 9 to 5, nor did I have these experiences. But, many workers can relate to these characters. 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Reporter – Lois Lane – cartoon – Lois Lane in a scene from the cartoon, ‘The Arctic Giant’ (1942). http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Lois_Lane_en_la_caricatura_%27The_Arctic_Giant%27.png

Photo: Jobs – Superman – cartoon – Still frame from the animated cartoon “Superman: Billion Dollar Limited” (1942). http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Superman-billiondollarlimited1942.jpg

  1. Awesome story! I have been the “go-to” person at previous jobs, but found it unrewarding as I got paid the same to essentially do everyone else’s jobs. I no longer work there 🙂

  2. We learn best from frank feedback even if it’s negative. Too often people are too wussy to give it straight. As you found out, it’s the only way to make change.

    1. It’s unfortunate if people are left in the dark about the why … why they didn’t get the job. Sometimes, though, there just isn’t a good answer.
      From your perspective in HR, Kate, I’m guessing you’ve found that sometimes it’s just how the interviewer and interviewee connect.

      1. Sometimes the answer is that the decision was not about the candidate but there was someone better for the position either by experience or because their personality would fit the work group better. The latter is really hard for some to understand. Sometimes the decision is because the candidate was an idiot and came to the interview in a sweatshirt!

        comment from earthrider to katecrimmins:
        Thank heavens, I left the sweatshirt home that day. 🙂

  3. That’s the secret to great success– the ability to take the negative and make it a positive. very powerful and inspiring. Takes serious guts and confidence.

    1. Thanks, Darla. Knowing what was holding me back motivated me to listen and prepare for my next career move. Oddly enough that turned out to be right where I was working at the time.

    1. It doesn’t hurt to have someone believe in you as well. In my case, my husband’s faith in me was a huge asset. It got me over some of the hurdles, Deb. Thanks for your support.

  4. So many great lessons here. Kudos to you for being open-minded. I recently received some harsh feedback from an agent during a writing conference. Initially, I felt angry. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with her comments. I still think she could have been kinder in her delivery, but her criticism was constructive and it motivated me to take a class and develop my writing.You’re right, it’s all about how we cope and respond.

    1. Once I considered what was said, rather than how it was said, I realized the comments had merit. Like you, I wish these folks would take some public relations classes in how to deliver bad – but sorely needed – information. But it worked out for the best for the both of us. Lisa, I’m glad you took the critique the right way and benefited from her comments.

    1. If you don’t listen to advice, you might be missing out. Then, again, someone else might have a different perspective on your talents.

      I chose not to gamble and to pay attention. Thanks, Paprika.

  5. It is too easy to resent such criticism and do nothing about it except let it fester in our minds until we start believing we’re no good. Your resilience is therefore very inspiring, Judy, and this post is simply perfect for the start of the year when most of us are taking stock of ourselves and what we can do better. 🙂

    1. If nothing else, I hope that some will understand that they do not have to be locked into a dead-end situation. There is an opportunity to change — either within or by going elsewhere. Thank you for your comments, Tita Buds.

  6. Judy, this is powerful and inspiring. All the articles now seem to focus on “getting” a job–the application, resume, interview, etc.–but I haven’t seen any that deal with keeping the job and being happier/more effective. Your post is superb, and Bravo! for the Gandhi quote!

    1. Marilyn, I really appreciate your words of praise. When people are not happy in their job, there often is higher absenteeism, reduced productivity, and more illnesses which lead to taking off more time from work. When an employee is happy and feels valued, then the adverse has to be true.
      Thanks, that’s my favorite Gandhi quote.

    1. Remembering Scarlett O’Hara’s line in “Gone With the Wind,” “After all, tomorrow is another day” helps, too. Each new day brings a chance for a do-over and an opportunity to get it right. Thanks, Madhu.

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