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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Weekend Assignment: Career Day

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I shouldn't be sitting here right now (I'll explain later), but since I had a few minutes I thought I'd try and wrangle with an answer to the Weekend Assignment since I haven't had the chance to participate in a while:

What's the best piece of career advice you were ever given?

This comes with the caveat that the best advice for one person/situation could be the worst advice for another. I'll explain later, in the extra credit. (I'm sounding like Rowan Atkinson in The Curse of the Fatal Death, aren't I?)

The best advice that ever came my way was from a fellow writer: Act like a pro, and you'll be one. She didn't mean to act as though I was "better" than everyone else. She simply meant to act professional. I should behave as though I was serious about writing because, after all, I was serious about writing. She advised me to dress a little better than jeans and T-shirts when I went to conventions. I didn't have to dress up; I just should consider wearing a better looking top and that sort of thing.

Acting like a pro also meant acting like I had confidence in my abilities. For me, that was the hardest part. I have terrible self-esteem issues, and I'm also well aware that there can sometimes be a fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. I feel like I'm treading over that line every time I open my mouth on a convention panel.

She had a point. Going in with a professional attitude is good advice in just about any employment situation. Even when the chips are down (again, I'll explain later) if you act in a professional manner less effluence will stick to you when it hits the fan.

So, did it pay off? I guess it did. I was introduced to an editor at a convention, and she asked to see a fan project that I was working on at the time. That eventually led to a book.

Extra Credit: What was the worst piece of career advice you were ever given?

Ah. This is where I explain (almost) all later. It was "hang in there." This was very specific to a bad job situation. I'll make the long story short: I'd landed in a dream job, thanks to a referral from a friend. During my five year stint I'd moved from part time to full time, made okay money for that sort of profession, and was having a great time working for some of the best people in the world. What wasn't to like?

The business got sold and things changed. "Hang in there" sounded like good advice at the time because this particular profession experienced a lot of turnover. Still does. Lots of people move from one place to another. Anyway, I thought I might be able to outlast the boss from you-know-where, and I couldn't. (If you remember Vogler from House, you have an idea of what things were like.) When I left I was at rock bottom and shortly afterward some so-called friends took advantage of my situation, which just made matters worse.

Acting in a professional manner under horrible circumstances paid off. It's the type of industry that's very tight-knit, even though people move around a lot. In fact, I ended up in another nasty situation in the same industry, and acting in a professional manner paid off.

You'll have to pardon me if I don't go into detail. For one, I'm not into burning bridges. For another, I heard that one horrid boss had a "Road to Damascus" moment and frankly, if someone is trying to overcome their mistakes more power to 'em.

So what's that other thing I promised to explain later? I'm taking another short break. Well, I may be in and out over the weekend, but I'm going to try to step away from the computer. This time I'm feeling good and since it's a holiday weekend, I'm going to do the family thing.

Thanks for stopping in, and enjoy your weekened!

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Filed under: Weekend Assignment            
5/23/2008 12:06:57 PM
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