Friday, 23 May 2014

What's the worst that can happen

If there's one saying I've heard over and over again through the years, it's this:

"You might as well try. What's the worst that can happen?"

This seems to be the go-to response when someone wants to put themselves out there, take a risk or try something new - and for some people, it probably serves as the kick up the arse they need to do just that.

Which is great for them.

But if you're the sort of person who worries about the "worst that can happen" a fair amount of the time, the idea of imagining the worst case scenario and using it as a reason to do something probably won't be all that helpful.

In fact for years, putting any focus on the "worst that could happen" - the uncertainty, not knowing the outcome, potentially looking silly, getting a negative reaction, failing - would conversely be the thing that stopped me trying in the first place.

It keeps you in stasis.

And if you normally calculate the risk and go with the option least likely to cause a fuss, you're unlikely to be the sort of person who takes a deep breath, ignores the thumping in your chest, and rejects something like a pay rise offer because, well, you reckon you're worth more.

Because let's be honest, if jobs are hard to come by, pay rises are even harder. If they don't budge, it might mean you have to find another job - and with rent to pay, that's a pretty big risk to take.

But last year, this is what I did.

It could have been this thing I read - about how women get promoted based on their past accomplishments; where men get promoted on their future potential; that women actively highlight the things they're not good at, hold themselves back, state their shortcomings before anything else - which made me stop, take a picture of the pages, and admit that yes - this is me in my career so far, grateful for anything, undervaluing myself - and see that fitting that sort of statistic is probably the worst that can happen.

Maybe it was that.

Maybe it was yet another impending house move signalling an overhaul, maybe it was just the reckless "sod it" feeling that passes over me sometimes like a tide (the same one that also makes me book things like plane tickets to take me half way around the world).

Whatever it was, it made me say "that's generous, thank you - but actually, I deserve this much" - and push a much higher figure over the table, along with the reasons why.

(I calculated that the worst that could happen would be them laughing, my embarrassment, handing in my notice, living off meagre savings, and struggling to find another job. So I sorted my CV out just in case.)

In the end, the pay rise I wanted came through, and with it - as I walked out of the room stifling a grin, feeling really quite emotional - a feeling of wonder: if I asked for that and got it, what else can I do?

Which is how, six months later, I ended up sitting at my kitchen table after a decidedly mediocre day at work, contemplating the worst things that could happen if submitted my CV for a job I'd chanced upon, which was at the very edge of my abilities, and already showed a large amount of applicants in the running.

The worst? I'd hear nothing, and stay where I was.

The other worst? I'd get an interview, and have to lie about a doctor's appointment.

(The guilt, the guilt. Always the guilt.)

But then one e-mail became a phone interview, which became more face to face, and now here I sit at my new desk, in a different, bigger office, with a new job and new colleagues; managing, instead of being managed.

Granted, "Well, you might as well try, because the best that can happen is that someone says 'yes', and in fact the more you try, the more people will say yes" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as the original version.

But for now, as far as sayings go, it seems to be working for me.


Exile on Pain Street said...

Congrats, Jo! Well done. Obviously, you deserved it or it wouldn't have happened. Did your old employer kick and scream when you left? I hope my daughters have the same spirit that you do.

All I've ever wanted was a few people under me so I could crush their spirit. Hasn't happened yet but I'm hopeful. I just changed jobs myself about three weeks ago. One of the most difficult aspects is getting used to the politics and personalities.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Thanks - I hope more girls grow up knowing and thinking like this, instead of getting to nearly 30 and finding out it's possible because a book told them. My old employer was happy for me, we left on good terms (to my face, anyway).

I saw that you'd got a new job, too - must be something in the air. I completely agree that the politics (and also learning names) are probably the hardest bit. Treading carefully at the start!

Lisbeth said...

Congratulations (on the new job, the great attitude and this post)!

Fenstar de Luxe said...

Wonderful news and good on you for putting yourself out there more than once.

Amy said...

Congratulations, Jo. You are brilliant and you never cease to be an inspiration to me x

London-Lass said...

Well done!

looby said...

Excellent -- and so carefully told as well, almost as though the conclusion wasn't to be a happy one. Well done you.

jman said...

Congratulations! A far cry from the woman who was happy to work for free just to be doing something in her field! Sometimes getting older has some perks.


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