A question that I am frequently asked in interviews is “What type of managers do you work best under?”
And I always answer this question exactly the same way.
“Managers who want to get to know me on a personal level.”
I totally understand that everyone is motivated by different things. Some people are motivated by money or by getting results or even by taking gratuitous amounts of pictures of their cat (for some reason).
For me, I am motivated by people. Not necessarily some large-scale altruistic desire to make the world a better place, but more or less loyalty and human connection. In the workplace, this translates to being a team player. I’m willing to go above and beyond so that my manager doesn’t have to stay late, I offer to help out with projects that I wouldn’t normally be on because my other coworkers are swamped, and I agree to go to lunch at obscenely early hours because I’d rather forge connections with my coworkers than go to lunch at a reasonable time.
I find that this last point surprises a lot of people, both because I eat lunch super late and because it seems weird to others that I would move my schedule around so willingly for others on something as inconsequential as lunch. But it’s not inconsequential to me! It’s about creating a strong connection, and those relationships are worth prioritizing.
This is how I’ve always felt, too. As a child, I lived for deep, late-night conversations at sleepovers, I loved finding new things that I had in common with my peers, and I only participated in after-school clubs because I could interact with my friends in different environments.
My opinion on every experience I’ve had in my life is based on the relationships that I’ve made. If you ask me how I felt about any particular competition, retreat, or event that I’ve attended in my life, I’ll talk you ear off about the people that I met and what we did. As difficult as my college experience was, I look back knowing that I wouldn’t change it for anything because of the people I met and how they shaped me.
One of the most intoxicating feelings that I’ve ever had in my life is the sense of belonging to a group. There’s just something about that feeling when you’re with people who totally get you, your jokes are landing, and you’re all laughing together. I’ve known that I love that feeling ever since I was a scared kid going from my middle school friends, who I knew so well, to an all-new set of high school students. That sense of belonging is rare, but it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
I wish that I could tell you the exact moment that I realized that people were my passion. I wish that I could say it was some grand revelation where I found a sword in the forest and suddenly transformed into a 10 foot woman in a tiara.
She-Ra reference? No? Just me? Moving on…
As someone who prides herself on self-awareness, I love reflection that leads to amazing moments of clarity and insight into my personality as a whole. Patterns are everything to me, and our patterns define who we are and what we care about. The people that I’ve met and the relationships that I’ve fostered have always been the most important to me. When I talk about going on trips, attending classes, my work life, anything, it comes down to the people.
I try to relate everything in my life to others. If you were to tell me that you like a particular song, food, or color, then, every time I saw or thought about that particular thing, I would think “Oh, this is that song/food/color that (insert name here) likes!”
When I am telling someone a story (one of the 10 people in my life that I literally tell everything to), I find myself frequently relating what I am saying to this particular person to what I’ve said several times before when telling the story. “It’s like I was telling Dan, Stephanie, Josh, Julia, my mom, my hairstylist, my therapist, the mailman, and the cashier at Wawa today…” I’ve definitely heard other people do this, but nowhere near as much as I do. I’ve been trying to cut back on this habit for the sake of the person I am talking to and trying to get to the point in a quicker, less-convoluted way, but, when your brain is connecting every feeling and every story to another person (and you’ve decided to completely remove whatever verbal filter you’ve ever had), it’s tough!
Almost all of my personal goals involve people in one way or another. When it comes to my writing, it’s all about making people laugh and creating content that others can relate to. When I’m conversing with my friends, I am constantly trying to create a platform that makes them comfortable sharing things with me. Sometimes this involves majorly oversharing, but so be it! If I have to make you feel uncomfortable in order to make you comfortable, then that is what I shall do! I never said I was perfect…
This is probably why I enjoyed dating so much. It was great to have an excuse to overshare with someone like crazy in order to see if we were compatible. Learning about people is really the best, especially when I can send them home after and only talk to them when I want to!
When I was on a leadership retreat in college, we all had to give someone in our group a compliment, and my sorority sister had said that I made her feel like she could be herself around me without judgement. She could not have given me a better compliment. But I knew that I could still do better. My personal project for the last several years has been to become an empathetic person so that I can make others feel like they can be themselves around me. As a typical “Thinker” on the Myers-Briggs scale, it’s been an interesting exercise.
My life coach asked me recently when I felt the most satisfied and fulfilled. I thought back to all of the things that I had been proud of in my life (projects at work, motivational speeches, and obstacles I’ve faced), and I couldn’t say that I had ever felt truly fulfilled. Like Angelica Schuyler, was I cursed to never be satisfied?!
But once I expanded my scope a bit and thought about my life as a whole — and not just my accomplishments — I realized that having personal, 1-on-1 conversations about others’ feelings and opinions is very satisfying for me. This is the space where true bonds are formed. Whether we agree or disagree, this is where I can see people come to life — I see their faces light up and their hands gesticulate wildly. This is where I live.
So pull up a chair and tell me all about your feelings about the newest Disney movie, or your annoying coworker, or how you broke your arm in the 2nd grade. I want to hear about every single second. And then become your best friend.
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/