“This is so tedious. Don’t we have someone to do this for us?”
That’s a question an intern asked her manager at one of my first jobs (a PR agency). The manager’s answer? “Yup, you’re it. Get over it.”
At the time, I thought that answer was a little harsh, but now I get the manager’s frustration and am totally appalled that the intern asked in the first place.
You’ve been through 4 years of school, and perhaps even gotten some experience at a job or internship while you were in school. And then you sent out your resumé, nailed the phone and in-person interviews and got hired. Boom. You’re awesome. So why are the very people who plucked you out of a line of eager entry-level-ers asking you to do stuff so…menial? And why not pipe up and let your genius voice be heard?
#1: Because someone has to do it and that someone is you.
Even if it isn’t you, volunteer to do it. I volunteered to organize stupid data, lists of names, and lots of other random stuff into Excel documents all the time. Sometimes I spend 3 hours on a document no one ever opened again. But everyone was glad to have it on hand, just in case. And in turn, they were glad to have me on hand. By doing this, I created value for myself.
#2: Your manager knows more than you.
You may not think they are smarter than you or more talented than you or as nice-smelling as you, but that doesn’t matter. Your manager or even your coworker with exactly 10 months more experience than you knows more than you do about that particular client/place of employment/boss. They know that this particular client is crazy for perfectly color-coded documents that take forever to put together and don’t offer up anything particularly illuminating. You think it’s annoying. Here’s a tip: so does your manager. But they know that they have to suck it up and do it.
#3: People talk. A lot.
I might have misled you, dear reader. I wasn’t actually present for the conversation I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I heard it from a coworker two years after it happened. She was still miffed that the intern dare say such a thing. Granted, apparently that intern was all kinds of awful in other ways, but let’s just stick to the point: everyone makes mistakes at their first (and second, third, fourth) job, but it’s your attitude and way you treat people that most of your coworkers will remember. Don’t be remembered as the guy who constantly complained about every little task.
#4: Okay, go ahead. Pipe up. But pick the right time to do it.
If you have a new idea for how to complete a task or achieve a client’s goal – whether it’s using a new tool/piece of software or by creating a snazzy new Excel doc (can you tell I like Excel?) – go ahead and approach your manager about it. But not right when she hands you a new assignment and is hovering over your computer trying to show you how she wants things done.
Another caveat to the “keep your mouth shut” rule: Ask questions. I’ve been new and too scared/overwhelmed to ask how something is done or if something exists . And then I’ve done it and realized I spent a bunch of time on something that already existed. Whoops. Just try not to ask the same questions over and over (reason #3,490 to keep a notebook or at least the notebook app on your phone around at all times).