With our wealth of experience and diversity in backgrounds, we know that it’s just not that simple. When you open yourself up emotionally and mentally to a new opportunity, you are essentially volunteering for a wild roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Sometimes we decide it’s just not worth the twists and turns.
But have you truly made the decision to pass for the right reasons?
We know there is something to learn from every situation, but sometimes it is hard to see past the fear. Below, our COO, Alison Spitzer, shares one of her earlier professional experiences that taught her, by complete accident, that saying “yes” will always lead to growth.
When I moved to New York after grad school in DC, I said “yes” to a job out of total inexperience, and here’s why I am grateful for that leg of my journey.
On paper, the job was a directly linear choice based on my masters degree in International Communications. I was going to be an Assistant Director for Europe and Eurasia at a prominent government and corporate membership funded international organization. I had spent years studying international trade, policy and trained in crisis negotiations. Quickly, I learned that my everyday role at my new job literally had nothing to do with all that I had prepared for at American University.
On paper, it was the perfect marriage of government and business interactions, but it wasn’t until I took the job that I really knew what the heck it was all about, which was ultimately a LOT of things I had to learn quickly on my feet, and until I learned them, I had to act like I had a clue what I was doing- everything from acronyms which felt like I was learning a new language, to identifying power struggles between players at a table that could be good or bad and how to act accordingly, and anticipating what would actually be the motivating factor to get the top, most influential people in a room together to promote US investment interests abroad.
If you told me what the job REALLY was about back then, I probably would have passed, thinking I was under-qualified, or it wasn’t a match for my education. If I had said “NO”, I would have missed an opportunity for both an education in essential nuances in business and how survival by just showing up and being present and ready to roll with whatever came my way is painfully simple, but critical.
Sure, I made a ton of mistakes, some days I didn’t want to go, or cringed at things that had happened that I didn’t handle correctly. But you know what? All of those things, most importantly, the things I did wrong or learned on my feet, have served me the rest of my career, far beyond the time that I submitted my two weeks when it was time for me to move on.
Saying “yes” to this job taught me things I never expected, and made me stronger.
I think this story is relevant because it taught me that by saying “yes”, you can never NOT learn something, most likely something completely unexpected, that will help you in some way. And don’t discount the value your new and different perspective brings to your clients.
There are a few basic reasons we say no to a new venture, a new client, an opportunity. Some of the time they are things that are black and white, clear and require no mental energy at all when it comes time to say yes or pass.
Maybe the job offer doesn’t pay well or has too big a scope.
Maybe you already have too much on your plate.
Maybe the timing of deliverables is in direct conflict with your schedule.
But if it is something in the gray, it is most likely something internal that is holding you back.
Don’t let it.
If you say “no” to something in the gray- mentally or physically note why. After some time, you might be able to identify what exactly lives in that gray that is holding you back. There is bound to be one common theme, but all of them are in some way rooted in fear. There is a cost to saying no, even if it makes you feel safer in the short term.
As Helen Keller once said, “avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
So let’s address that. Alison learned the value of saying yes at an early professional age. It is always a good time to explore what holds you back, so you have a chance to face your fears directly and work past them.
If you are able to respond to the question “what is your underlying fear when you say “no” to an opportunity?” Then you are further along on your path to professional growth than you think!
The Hay There team, like nearly all experienced professionals, have experienced similar thoughts and obstacles on their journey, and are here to help whenever you are ready. Contact us today.