7 July 2008

Cutting the apron strings: Gaining confidence to venture out on your own

If you are in a job and have come on as a junior, then you need to accept the role as student and learn as much as you can from the people around you who have been on the job for a long time. But when is it time to take control and venture out on your own?

It is sometimes easy to stay in the student role because it is safe and if you have a strong mentor to live in their shadow, but that is not good for your career development. There does come a time when you need to step out of your comfortable position and take on the challenge of what you have learned.

Here are some things that may be helpful to you:
  1. Accept mentorship if it is offered to you. This is invaluable and will help you in your career. Your co-workers will also be a source of information and help. They want to see you contributing to the team as quickly as possible.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but you will find if you write the answer down in a Secretarial Manual, you will not have to ask as often. You can then refer back to it as often as you need to until you become comfortable with the task. It is always good however to get clarification if you do not understand a task that is given to you and then you might have to adjust what you have written about that particular task in your Manual.
  3. Evaluate yourself from time to time. You will notice you will refer less and less to your Manual as you start to know the ropes. See this as personal progress and know you are getting to a place where you will be able to take on some tasks on your own.
  4. If you are comfortable in an area and want to try to do it on your own, then do so, but initially I would recommend that you check with your mentor, or a co-worker, and go over it with them. You will reaffirm to yourself your knowledge of the task and give confidence to your mentor that you have been listening and learning. Many times the mentor has to also learn to let go and let you fly on your own.
  5. Don’t be discouraged if you make a mistake. This is part of the learning process. Take ownership of the error, but don’t dwell on it. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them.
  6. Take the time to look things over. You are not in a race, although at times it might seem so with the pressures and stresses of today’s office environment. You want to get it done quickly, but it also needs to be accurate.
  7. As you gain confidence and take baby steps out on your own, you will see that others will start looking to you for help. Be available when the next new person comes on board. Learning through teaching is an excellent way to grow professionally.