Friday, October 28, 2005

Fun and Seriousness

I recently applied for a managerial position at work and didn't make the cut. There were over 50 applicants, and I made it to the top 20 or so, but no further. That's fine - I'm not angry or anything; I know the competition was tough, and we've had a lot of sub-managers like me waiting for promotion opportunities for about a year.

I just came back from a meeting with one of the bigwigs who makes the decisions, in an attempt to get some feedback into what I can do to improve my chances the next time around. He said that I didn't do anything wrong in the interview process per se, and that there was nothing that I missed doing, but that there were so many qualified applicants that my own stellar light was eclipsed by some of the blue giants around me (my metaphor, not his).

The one point he made that stuck with me was that while I'm very approachable and easy to talk to (which he stressed is a good thing), that can sometimes come across as a guy who doesn't take things seriously enough.

In his book Heretics, G.K. Chesterton said "the two qualities of fun and seriousness have nothing whatever to do with each other, they are no more comparable than black and triangular." Meaning you can be both, and not in a state of contradiction.

I strive to be competent and easy-going - I get my work done, and smile while doing it. From what I'm learning about the professional world, that's a rare thing; most managers work inefficiently and grumble about it (not in my workplace, of course!). They are neither fun nor serious.

So the newest item on my "growth plan" is to continue working hard with a smile, but also to make the fruits of my labours obvious. This means taking on some more high-profile projects, and ensuring my direct managers are aware of my efforts.

I think that's a very Catholic approach to work; I have no problem telling my boss about the things I'm doing to improve the workplace. I don't see that as Pride, but rather Humility. A proud person misrepresents his place in the universe - either by too much or too little. A humble person knows exactly where he stands in relation to God, man, and nature, and has no qualms about proclaiming it or keeping it quiet.

For too long I've kept it quiet, which is both career-limiting, and a form of pride. From here on, I will be a very noticable black triangle.

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