The last week of work before the holidays may seem torturous and never-ending- like that episode of The Simpsons when Bart is stuck at school waiting to go home and the second hand on the clock starts to move backwards, but the way I see it, the last week is a great opportunity, not only to clear off your desk and complete those small tasks that have been piling up all term, but to take time to do something fun- well, “work” fun.
This morning, as I walked around my deserted library space, looking for a place to hang a gigantic whiteboard, I was reminded of how I felt my first day- back when I was going to try to really shake things up here. I mentally moved furniture back and forth across the room, visualised where I could add potted plants and hang artwork, and thought about all of the people I should be emailing to help me get these things done. About twenty minutes later, after scouring both my cozy and austere spaces (the library here is divided into two separate spaces), I decided I needed to take action…which, although slightly undramatic, lead me to scraping a large sticker-like sign off of the door. I’ve hated that sign since the day of my interview when they gave me a tour around the library. NO EATING. NO DRINKING. NO SMOKI- okay, that one was fine. Like a crotchety old clerk at the post office barking orders. Ugh. I’d had enough- so the sign had to go.
But that is not even the point I’m trying to make because although each chip of the sign that came flying off the door as I scraped away was satisfying in the way that cracking eggs or hearing bottles break into glass bins is, removing it was step one in a process that was sure to take me into the afternoon.
Job interviewers will often ask you how other people you work with would describe you. Of course, in those situations, most of us search our brains for an answer we think they want to hear, which, in my case, is often quite modest. I thought about that today when I decided I needed to make a new poster to hang on the library door because I had a vision in my mind about what it should look like, but had no idea how I was going to create it. I didn’t have the necessary skills or knowledge to make, in my opinion, something appealing and professional looking, but I knew I could figure out where to start. So for the rest of the day, I taught myself how to perform some basic tasks in Photoshop. You may be asking yourself what the big deal is- shouldn’t I already know how to use Photoshop? Maybe. I didn’t though- and THAT’S where the interview question comes in. I’m someone who’s not afraid to discover. Rather than settling with making a quick sign devoid of any aesthetically pleasing characteristics, I devoted the next three hours into learning something that, although pretty much meaningless with regard to actual output at the time, will help me become better at what I do and express myself in a more professionally fulfilling way. Not only was it fun and offered a break from the normal tasks scattered throughout my day, it made me feel good about myself- which is something I think I often downplay at work.
Of course, I’m no expert at Photoshop, as can been seen from the example below, but again, that’s not really what matters- it’s about taking time to challenge yourself and taking opportunities to improve your skills. The next time I try using Photoshop, I’ll probably still be lagging and will need to watch a tutorial, but the time after that, I’ll get better, and then better, and better still- and that feeling, especially within your job, is utterly sublime.