An unexpected twist

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So exactly two weeks after that NET retreat experience, I went to my job as normal. And my supervisor called me into her office. There, I was joined with our human resources representative.

Very matter of factly, my supervisor explained that today would be my last day. I was being laid off. They had decided to dissolve the “new business” sales team, redirecting everyone else into different positions. There was no need for me.

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Misery in the advertising world

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As I mentioned before, this newspaper where I worked had four sales teams: two teams splitting the geographic area of the paper’s local market; new business; national. When I came to interview at the paper, I was initially interviewed by the manager of the national team, but for some reason she decided not to go with me. Then I met with the “new business” manager and somehow got that job. So, I was a bit intimidated to interact with the assistant for the national team, thinking she must be a major office whiz.

I remember an opportunity I had to work a little bit with that assistant. We were trained together on how to manipulate the database information to generate various reports for our respective teams. It surprised me that the other assistant seemed to have no idea how databases worked. She wasn’t computer savvy at all, but she dressed more corporate. And I couldn’t help but think that was a major reason why she had gotten that position. It’s all about appearances, right?

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When ‘introvert’ isn’t a complete description


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During the summer of 2007, as I was wrapping up my year in Los Angeles, our little volunteer community took some personality inventories.

I don’t know why we took these assessments at the end of our volunteer experience. Perhaps it was meant to serve as confirmation of behavior and preferences rather than uncover new insight. I walked away with some enlightening information and yet there were still plenty of questions.

I learned I was considered very introverted. Scoring 9 or possibly 10 out of 10.

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Extrovert versus introvert: The roommate struggle

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Among the biggest challenges in this volunteer experience was figuring out a way to adjust to living with a roommate. The final two years of college, I didn’t have a roommate. As a junior, my roommate transferred to a different room the first week of the semester and I never got a replacement. During my senior year, I was able to live with a family I met through church. I lived with other people, but it wasn’t the same thing as having a roommate.

But the focal part of this new experience was living with someone much older than me. The best way to explain why this relationship was so challenging is that we were polar opposites. This was truly my introduction to the differences between extroverts and introverts. She was a solid extrovert, and I was a bottled up introvert.

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Finding value in mundane jobs

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One of the first big lessons I learned during my time in Los Angeles was the purpose and value of work. All work matters. Some positions may be more glamorous than others, but when it joins together it all has a purpose. Some roles are more public while others happen behind the scenes where fewer see the details. Every position is needed.

What’s more, this revelation came while I was earning $100 a month. It wasn’t about how much I made. It was about doing my best, being challenged. It meant doing some tasks that felt small at the time but would eventually serve as a powerful foundation for bigger jobs. If you feel like a particular task is menial and not worth doing, take a step back and see how your contribution fits in with the bigger picture.

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Plea to teachers: Be patient with questions

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Every teacher has a moment at least once a day when a student asks a question about something that has just been explained, and the teacher’s natural reaction is “Weren’t you listening?”

Asking questions in class and seeking clarification is scary. At some point, a person gets ridiculed for asking. Maybe it seems like poor timing, even in a situation like this:

Teacher: (wrapping up a long discussion of what to expect and what sections to review) The test will be Friday. … (Brief pause) … Any questions?

Student: When’s the test?

I know it seems easy to write off a scenario like this as the kid zoned out or was clearly not paying attention. I’m sure there are ways of judging that.

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