New Job? Why You Should Be Saying “Yes, And…”

Saying yes at work and then asking for more
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You listened to all the advice, explored your options, and officially got hired at your first job after college. But you can’t stop there. Now is the time to grab your favorite improv props (maybe a ten gallon hat and a swim noodle) and start building a successful career!

Uh, what?

Okay, so maybe you can lose the props… but there is a part of improv that can be applied to your career and help you succeed. And no, we don’t mean Michael Scott’s gun technique.

What we want you to incorporate into your work is the “Yes, and…” principle.

There aren’t very many rules when it comes to improv, but there is at least one: You can’t say “no.” Whether your scene partner decides that you’re riding a giant pink elephant through downtown San Francisco or that you’re stuck in a glass cage of emotion, you have to go with it. You agree, then add. Yes, and…

So, how can this rule be applied to your work?

Here are four ways your career will benefit from saying “yes, and…” instead of “no.”

  • With Your Responsibilities  

Whether you’re interning, starting your first job, or working at any job in the future, it’s important to apply this principle to your responsibilities. You’ll be given a set of duties, but that doesn’t mean you should only do those tasks. Constantly approach things with the “yes, and…”  perspective.

Maybe as an intern, you’re in charge of getting the coffee ready in the morning. This is not the most glamorous of tasks, but that doesn’t have to stop you from having an experience that builds your career. You can do it grudgingly and then grumble to yourself about how it’s not giving you any “real work” experience OR you can say “yes” to the job and then ask for more.

Yes! You will make the coffee and could you sit in on that meeting? AND could you shadow so-and-so? If you have to put together a report for some executives, you can gather the information, create a document, and be done with it. OR you can ask yourself about the “and” part of the sentence. What else can you do? Create the report and suggest an idea for a follow-up report? Ask to make the report and watch as it’s presented so that you can learn how those meetings go?

You’re in control of what you learn at work. Make sure you’re getting as much out of every experience as possible.

  • During Lunch

It may seem like the better choice to sit at your desk, periodically munching on bites of salad, and working through lunch (that dedication is sure to impress the boss, right?) but you’re actually missing out on a lot of valuable networking time. Not that you need to spend every minute with your coworkers, but it really is a good idea to start saying “yes” to eating with some of them at lunchtime.

There’s an entire article by the Business Insider about why you should stop eating lunch at your desk every day. I’m going to challenge you to not only say “yes” to lunch with coworkers but also take it a step further and invite someone else in the office to join.

Yes, you’ll eat lunch in the common area and you’re going to invite Bob, too.

Remember that there isn’t really a ladder to climb up in the business world these days. Movements in your career are likely to be more lateral rather than vertical. The more people you know, the better. Plus, it can be a lot of fun getting to know the people you work with.

  • “Side Thing”

Say “yes” to your career but also say “yes” to anything else that might strike your fancy. I recently wrote a post about the “disease of modernity” and how our generation can’t seem to focus on one thing. We have too many choices and are like deer caught in headlights when we have to choose just one of them.

One of the suggestions for dealing with this disease was to not put pressure on yourself to choose just one. That’s right. Be a “slasher.” No, not a character in one of those scary movies, but someone who adds a “slash” to their title.

Yes, you write for The New York Times AND you dance hip-hop. You’re a journalist slash dancer. Maybe you’re a physicist who likes to paint. Be a physicist slash artist. Be it. Own who you are and who you also are.

I think a lot of career dissatisfaction comes from the fact that we feel the need to narrow ourselves into one identity.

  • Future possibilities

Be open to the options that your future holds. Don’t place too much pressure on the situation that you’re in. Be dedicated, work hard, and make the most of your situation, but don’t get so attached to one job that it becomes your identity.

Yes, you’re a banker and you work hard balancing accounts. That doesn’t mean that you have to stay at that one bank for the rest of your life (or even be a banker for the rest of your life). You’re a recent graduate? Be ready for everything that comes with that.

You’re an editorial assistant at a vegan magazine? Yes, and one day you might move on to become the Content Marketing Manager at a company called AfterCollege. Who knows? Just be open and ready with a big “yes, and…” with every career you find yourself in.

Homework time! Whether you’re starting your first job or a new job, give it a try. Erase “no” from your vocabulary and start saying “yes, and…”

Have anything to add? Know another way to incorporate this improv principle to your career? Tell us what it is in the comment section below.

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