Tag Archives: self-improvement

Better than I Used to be

After taking off a few months from writing, it is a little overwhelming to try to start again. So much has happened that it makes it difficult to know where to start.

For those of you who don’t know, I took off the last few months to concentrate on studying for the CAPM exam. The CAPM is a “junior” certificate in project management. I decided to do this after an “ah-ha!” moment about 18 months ago and several failed attempts at getting a job in project management without obtaining a certificate in that area of expertise. I’m glad to say that I passed with a lot of effort and even more grace.

I’ll be honest, after applying for over 30 jobs in a little over a year, it got pretty embarrassing to receive job offers of less than 80% of my current salary. Each time I was turned down or offered one thing when I felt I deserved another, it felt like I another needle pierced through my pride bubble. Needless to say, it was painful. For those of you without jobs, I understand that I am blessed to have one, especially in the Bay Area and the state of the national economy, however, nevertheless it was heartbreaking every time. I felt cheated out of my destiny, out my dream job, my dream life.

Finally a manager offered to give me feedback on an interview I had done. I gladly accepted the offer to receive feedback from a manager who had hired and fired many staff. One thing she repeatedly suggested was investing in my own growth. Finally I realized that I had been prideful, I had felt entitled to succeed in the workforce simply by excelling in the one job I have had for the last 10 years. It was at that time I realized I was nothing special in the eyes of my interviewers. There is too much competition in an area of the nation where there are several major universities and organizations that invest in the development of leaders.

With this new-to-me information, I set forth praying and researching. What could I do to prove to the workforce that I am skilled in managing projects, leading, communicating, and coordinating activities and resources. My initial thought was to go back to school, however I just paid off my student debt and colleagues advised against it. Eventually I ran across the Project Management Institute website. I found all the resources and information I needed there, and bought some courses through Groupon believe it or not. I studied and studied and almost gave up, when I realized I needed to keep praying. Alas, it was the week of my test, and I met with a former student volunteer who will soon be starting medical school. I told her about my aspirations, and she gave me some invaluable advice, don’t study the day before or the day of your test. You won’t learn any more than you already know by then. That advice stuck with me, and I took the day off before my test to rest and relax. I ate healthy food, spent quiet time with God, treated myself to a massage and pedicure, took a tour of the testing facility, and prayed a lot. The day of my test, I awoke ready to conquer the world. I pulled on a shirt a friend gave me the day before. On the front was the word “Brave.” I used my time wisely on the test, and as I hit the “complete” button, I reminded myself that I had done everything I could and the results were up to God.

As I read the screen that popped up next, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I passed! I can’t forget the feeling I had. It was similar to the feeling I had going into the test, an overwhelming sense of peace.

I know what you are thinking. No, I haven’t forgotten that this is supposed to be a faith blog, but the above story is all a part of my testimony. You see, all throughout college I suffered pretty severe panic attacks. I remember one in particular happened the day of a test or a presentation. I went to the student health clinic thinking I was having a heart attack when, in fact, it was a panic attack triggered by the pressure I put on myself to perform without error. I have struggled with being a perfectionist my whole life, but God is freeing me from it.

Anyone that tells you God frees you from experiencing panic attacks the moment you become Christian, is either lying or has experienced a miracle. I can say, that since becoming a Christian trusting in God has helped me to experience joy which helps calm panic and anxiety, but no, anxiety hasn’t completely gone away. Over the years, I have learned ways of coping with it. I have come to know myself better which has helped. I realize that I need daily time to myself and time with God in order to enjoy social time. And I now recognize that social time, fellowship time helps too. It helps put things in perspective when I hear other people’s stories and when I tell my own.

Earning my CAPM is not the end of the road for me. I’m a lifelong learner, and I plan to get my PMP and other certifications in the near future. Above those goals though, is my ultimate God-given purpose to love God, love my neighbor, and to share the Gospel and all that goes with that. So no matter if I hold this same position another decade or get promoted to project manager, I know that I am fulfilling God’s purpose for my life every time I love Him, love my neighbor and share the Gospel. I also know, that with every day I read His word, live it out, and draw closer to Him, I will become freer and freer from anxiety and panic. He promises it over and over that someday all who believe will be free from what we suffer…someday.

You Tell Me

Yesterday I attended a class for work. When I first walked in I felt awkward. It was all directors, managers, coordinators, analysts with their work laptops, typing so fast the keyboards were practically smoking. Immediately I felt intimidated and even questioned my ability to successfully participate. Here I am an administrative assistant with my little green padfolio that was a free giveaway several years ago. How am I supposed to effectively participate and accomplish big things on my project?

What’s the first thing almost anyone does in an awkward situation? Eat! (I’m not saying it’s the healthiest way to go.) Fortunately breakfast and caffeine was provided, and I was actively fiending for coffee. I grabbed my food and made my way past the typing zombies. I was practically twiddling my thumbs when the instructor passed out “fuzzy sticks” or as I call them, pipe cleaners. Hmmm? This looks interesting. This looks like something that doesn’t require a laptop. I looked up, now eager for class to start.

“First things first, put away your laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices. I want your full attention, and if you get bored keep your hands busy with some fuzzy sticks. I don’t care what you make as long as you are participating in the class.”

Okay, I’m definitely relieved.

“Now choose a partner.”

Immediately the anxiety returns. What if nobody picks me like in high school P.E. when I was the last picked for every sport? Fortunately the nice lady in front of me spun around and asked me to be her partner.

“Now what you are going to do is interview each other, but you are not yourself, the other person is you, and you are the key stakeholder for your project.”

It’s hard to put yourself out there. It feels awkward, nerve-racking, stressful, and sometimes it conjures up that feeling of crawling under your desk and hiding. As if it is not hard enough to open yourself up to criticism and input from a stranger at work, it’s even harder to do so with a friend.

After being paired up and discussing my project I found many places I had fallen short that I wouldn’t have seen looking in on my project alone. There were things my partner was doing way better than me and vice versa. There were even areas where we were both failing, and we got to discuss how we could both improve. Our teacher even suggested that we follow-up with each other in a few weeks to see how our projects were progressing.

We can do the same in our personal lives. We can lay out the facts, what we’ve done, where we know we’ve fallen short, even where we feel we’ve improved or succeeded, but we don’t see the full picture until we’ve invited others to give their perspective. You might learn something about yourself, and you are sure to learn something about the other person. Hopefully this leads to you being on the same page, and if it doesn’t, you know you tried your best.