• Eve Arnold

Say Yes Now to Say No Later

Eventually it’ll be hell yes or no but right now it’s yes, yes, yes.

If you are anything like me, the early days of work were a total blur. Somewhere between adapting to the commute, eating an unhealthy amount of pasta and thinking that I should have stayed at Uni for longer, I had made it through my first year.

But that year wasn’t without its struggles.

One of the things always perplexed me was this idea of only saying yes to certain things, else you’ll end up with too much on your plate.

A little like being at an all you can eat buffet but not putting things on your plate in case you didn’t like them. Which to me, defeated the whole point of being at an all you can eat buffet.

Saying Yes is a Good Thing

When you are new to work there is lots to learn and sure by saying yes to absolutely everything you may end up with quite a lot on your plate but if there was ever a time to have a lot on your plate, now is that time. Now when you are (presumably) mortgage free, living with your parents with the least responsibilities you’ll ever have in your life. You can afford to have a lot on your plate at work.

And of course not too much, I’m not saying overstretch and pull your proverbial career hamstring, however I am saying that you should be tasting different things early in your career.

To reiterate though, not a ridiculous amount but enough so you can get an idea of what you enjoy and what you don’t.

The Aim of the Game

If we liken work to climbing a mountain. We’ve done all this prep work in school and university, we’ve sat tests much like training before going up the actual mountain. We’ve practiced over and over to now be ready for the real thing.

That first day is like approaching the bottom of the mountain, looking up at the vast amount of mountain in front you and thinking:

“What on Earth have I signed up for?”

The top of that mountain, in the work sense, is finding a job or a career that you enjoy. The summit is finding a career that you find enjoyable and fulfilling that meets your needs. There are many ways to get up the mountain, you might not get all the way up, you might get half way and think you want to turn around. However, the summit is a fair while away and you are at the very bottom.

The aim, of course, is to get to the top of the mountain. To get there in one piece, ideally, but also take in the climb, feel the wind on your face, the strain in your legs, the fear in your bones. Part of the enjoyment, the experience, is the climb up.

If the aim is to reach the top, in a work sense you need to try a lot of things to realise those you like and those you do not. I’d always thought the idea of trying something and not liking it was a total waste of time. I couldn’t be more wrong.

Figuring out what you don’t like is just as important as figuring out what you do like. Climbing up the mountain and realising you don’t want to go that route, you want to try a different route is a wonderful thing. That learning sticks with you for your lifetime.

Saying Yes is a Fine Balance Strategy

With the aim of the game being to get to the top of the mountain in one piece, it makes sense that to try new things you have to be open to the opportunities around you and say yes often. However, you don’t want to get yourself in a situation where you become someone that says yes to everything with no strategy as to why.

So create some rules to the things that you say yes to:

Rule #1: I’ll only say yes to things that genuinely interest me.

Rule #2: I’ll only agree to a maximum of 3 extra things outside my day job.

Rule #3: I’ll evaluate my commitments every 3 months to see if I need to drop anything.

You can have a strategy to say yes to things and that way you become the person who is positive, always tries to help and is inquisitive about learning rather than someone who just blindly says yes to things.

The first person is someone who is admired and understood, the second is seen as unstructured and misguided. Ideally, you want to become more like the first.

The Benefits of Saying Yes

The benefits of saying yes are fairly plentiful.

  1. You are seen as helpful, optimistic and someone that is a team player.

  2. You learn about different areas of the business and meet new people.

  3. You are able to try new things out without committing fully to them.

  4. You are gaining experience and opening doors you may not know existed.

When you are new to the working world, it makes sense to say yes often. They’ll come to a point where you don’t need to say yes anymore or so often because you’ll know what you enjoy and what you don’t. The sole purpose, really, of saying yes is to learn quickly what you do and do not like.

Once you’ve figured that out, you no longer have to say yes to things that appear random, you’ll have created a bank of experiences that give you evidence of the things you do and don’t like. When you are then presented with an idea or an opportunity, you can cross-reference your bank and say “yes, I like that” or “no, I had that experience and didn’t like it”.

Saying yes early in your career gives you a huge opportunity to learn. Once you’ve learnt what you do and don’t like you’ll have a clear idea of the things you want to spend your time doing.

And you’ll end up with a “hell yes” or a “no”.

Early in your career, you don’t know what your “hell yes” is. So find out first.

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