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my favorite job

In an Appreciative Inquiry-informed coaching process, we spend a lot of time focusing on the positive, the good, the productive. And often within this, we ask people to remember their favorite work experience, recent or long past. 

I was thinking today about one of my early work experiences, my first job out of college. I worked for this amazing woman, Ria Davidson, at a small PR firm focused on environmental communications. I was 21, so I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and was therefore largely unafraid of anything. 

One of our clients was a regional governmental agency. They hired us to handle the public relations around a highway construction project, which turned out to be a far more complex thing than I’d ever imagined. 

I was sitting in a meeting with a dozen men, government guys in suits. I was there to listen and take notes, to report back to my boss. Then there was a question. Our main client contact, a really good guy with three very distracting hairs growing out the top of his nose, was asking me a direct question about how we were going to handle something. 

Because I was (again) 21 and (again) didn’t know what I didn’t know, I winged it. I made something up. I was at least smart enough to couch it as a possible approach, still being decided upon, but everyone seemed pleased or at least undisturbed by the answer. 

I walked out of the meeting half sure I was going to be fired, and half floating inches above the floor. When I got back to the office, I told Ria what had happened. She paused, looked at me, then laughed loudly enough to shake the plants and said “You get ‘em, kid.” 

Why does this story stay with me? Why do I think about it now, two decades later, with such a surge of adrenaline and joy?

Part of it is me. I love those moments when I have no prepared answer, and things get really still and really quiet and the right thing rises up into language. This moment may be the first work memory I have of that occurring. 

The other part of it is Ria. She could have freaked out, or even expressed legitimate concern about her newbie staff member floating undiscussed ideas to a major client. But she didn’t. She high-fived me and went back to work. 

When I think about this story, it tells me so much about the kind of work I want to do, and the kind of boss or partner I want to be. I worry, which can get in the way of my intuition and my congratulations. But this story reminds me that when I create the right conditions, when I set worry aside, the right answers will come.  They’ll always come.

Marty McConnell