In my very limited experience overseeing a staff, I’ve noticed that when I hire students, they seem a little unfamiliar with how a healthy 1-to-1 supervisor/employee relationship should work. Or at least, how I’d like it to work. So I’m writing this list to help me gather my thoughts, and maybe set up a training document to avoid this confusion in the future. Hopefully, some young professionals (jesus am I already disqualifying myself from that category?) will find this helpful as they step into the working world for the first time. So, let’s get started, shall we?
- You were hired because I need help. This means that while I’ll try to start off slow, you are expected to eventually be capable of handling your assigned tasks independently. Someday, I want to be able to take a vacation, knowing that the work is safe in your hands.
- Yes I am testing you, but don’t stress about it. While it’s true that everything I ask you to do is a test to see what you know and what you can handle, that isn’t because I want you to look stupid or fail. I’m determining how many of my responsibilities I can safely entrust with you, as well as evaluating where you need more guidance and supervision. I can’t teach you until I know what you need to learn. With that in mind, and this is the most important thing…
- If you don’t know, ask. If you’ve already been told, but aren’t 100% sure, ask. If you are nervous about something, ask. If you are just curious, ask! As human beings, there is a lot we don’t know. That’s totally okay! Admitting ignorance is the quickest way to remedy it. Also, I’m not a NASA mission control operator. By that I mean, sometimes my instructions aren’t perfectly clear the first time. If you don’t understand, ask me to clarify. If there is any chance that you may make a mistake because you didn’t understand the instructions, drop what you are doing and ask me before moving forward. I promise to never pass judgement. Stopping to ask for help is always faster than making a mistake and having to start a task over from the beginning.
- I don’t know everything. While yes, I’ve spent years gathering experience and striving to do this job as efficiently and effectively as possible, when I say there isn’t a better way to do something, all that means is that I can’t think of a better way to do it. If you CAN, then I want to hear it. However…
- All opinions must be backed by supporting evidence. Ideas that don’t have supporting arguments go by a different name—beliefs—and our job doesn’t have much room for beliefs. Do you think a different font looks better on this layout? Cool, show me why. Do you think our visitors would prefer a different layout for this exhibit? Excellent, walk me through it. I’m very open to being wrong about almost anything, but your position must be defendable, or I will ignore it.
To summarize, I don’t expect my employees to be genius savants, but I do expect them to strive hard to eventually get close. I’ve got your back, and I’m here to catch you when you fall, but I ask that you learn from your mistakes with the hope that I’ll need to catch you less and less as we grow together.
I have real ethical issues with “advertorials”. That is, advertisements sold by newspapers and magazines that are disguised as part of the publication, usually with a small “paid advertisement” at the top or bottom. They are deceptive, dishonest, and erode an already shaky faith in the integrity of journalism.
When I used to work as an ad designer for a prominent newspaper publisher, I would frequently be tasked with placing these kinds of ads, or rebuilding and updating them. Most often, they were targeted at senior citizens. These ads would come to me with headlines like "World renowned audiologist Dr. [insert name] to appear for FREE hearing consultations at [insert clinic] on [insert date]! The rest of the ad was then laid out to mimic the style of the rest of the newspaper.
In other words, completely fabricated, cut-and-paste templates intentionally designed to deceive the uninitiated into approaching the ad like a legitimate, unbiased piece of journalism.
It always made me a little sick to be a part of ads like that. Recently, my current employer experimented with a very similar advertising strategy, and I was once again responsible for the design. I’m much, much more experienced now and did a much better job, which I found myself being ashamed of.
While my employer’s intentions are much, much more noble, and their message is not targeted at the gullible, the deception inherent in this ad style still rubs me the wrong way. It’s sneaky, it’s not journalism, and it shouldn’t be allowed.