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Surviving the Grunt: How to Put Short-Term Pride to the Side for Long-Term Wins

Want to end up the top dog? Bite that bullet and do the work

(Image: Thinkstock)

I oftentimes come across young professionals who say things like, “I am too qualified to get coffee/do those reports/take that meeting or assignment.”

True, you may be. But sometimes it’s best to play the humble “How can I help you” role in order to position yourself for bigger future gains.

Take an internship experience I had for example. A few *cough* years ago, I interned for a major magazine. I thought I should be writing features that would be pubbed and lauded by proud family and friends. I’d already been an editor at my school’s newspaper and had good grades when it came to newswriting. Also, I believed in my ideas wholeheartedly, having been an avid consumer of that particular publication. (Let’s just say I had healthy confidence without the big receipts).

Well, obviously that was an unrealistic aspiration. It’s good to have dreams and know your greatness—and ability to be at the top—but you have to have a realistic plan for getting there. In the scheme of things, I couldn’t just skip the full journey toward a cover feature.

So, I decided to put my bitterness (and pride) to the side, change my focus and get to work. If I was asked to make copies, I’d do it. If I were asked to get coffee for the editors, I would. If I were asked to do tedious research, I’d do it. I even began finding joy in being thorough in my fact checking, using it as an opportunity to learn more and build up my reporting skills. I began handling contracts, thus learning how a proper one is drafted and the editorial flow of how stories get pubbed. I began corresponding with writers who did work on cover stories, and even if it weren’t in person, I could research them and see how they made it to where they were.

After all that, I ended up working with a special editor who allowed me to assist her with a book project. In making copies and handling contracts, I’d see things that could be tweaked in the copy and make subtle suggestions. Eventually, the editor trusted me to make edits to the book sections (with supervision and approval, of course). To me, it was a no-brainer because I’m naturally a copy geek. To her, it was initiative. I got an editorial assistant credit for that book, simply by eating humble pie every lunch hour and doing the work. And I also got the chance to learn a lot— one-on-one —with one of the top talents in publishing, lessons I’ve taken with me throughout my career.

See where I’m going with this?

The slow Humble Road leads to the Land of Opportunity. (Corny, I know, but I think it makes sense.)

So, the next time your boss asks you to send an e-mail, and you think, “That’s not my job. Why can’t he (or she) do it?” just follow directions. If you get the chance to order lunch for your manager’s meeting with a client, do it with a smile, paying close attention to detail for the next time around. Those small gestures build trust and respect, and could lead to prime opportunities that you wouldn’t have gotten had you responded with attitude or snobbery.

Millennials, take it from me: Put your short-term pride to the side to get those long-term career wins.

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