If there was one part of my Co-op semester I would have done differently from the start, it would have to be having the confidence to voice my opinion and stand my ground from the start.
Don’t get me wrong, that confidence came eventually, and mostly accidently. I struggled my first few months with giving feedback and speaking up in meetings and on conference calls. Honestly, even after eight months it’s something I still struggle with. After all, who am I to call anyone out or tell them how to do their job? Of course, I eventually learned that in fact, sometimes I AM the person to push others for a deadline or ask for someone to teak some creative – maybe even rewrite some copy myself.
Now I didn’t come to this insight over night, despite how obvious it may seem now, but it came in steps. Suddenly you realise that a deadline is coming, and if you’re going to meet it, someone else is going to need to meet the deadline you set for them. This realization allows you to put some more authority behind your emails. Cold, hard facts help too. If you can lay out the reason for changes in terms of dates and facts, it’s not YOU telling someone they need to get their butt in gear, it’s just deadlines.
The first time I really stood up to make my point to someone I found intimidating was actually an accident. Some debates over how flexible a deadline could be had escalated, and eventually a conference call was needed. Unbeknownst to me, the other project prime had got her Director on the line, and when I finally had to step in and insist my deadlines were firm, I found myself arguing with this Director (something I wouldn’t find out until after the call). Now it may not have been completely fair to sick a Director on me without notice (I mean seriously – I’m a Co-op student who’s been here two months, how is this a fair fight?), it did force me to finally stand my ground, and think about how scared I should have been later.
Now all this being said, I must admit that it’s not always the time and place to make yourself heard. I’ve been in my share of meetings where a few too many people felt the need to speak up on projects they didn’t know enough about, and were really too far gone to change anyway. I know a few times I’ve seen ideas that I didn’t think were great, a couple times I even voiced the thought, but sometimes when everyone who has the experience loves it, you just need to drop your case.
So let me know, how did you find your voice during your Co-op? More importantly, how do you determine when to use it? Comment here or talk to me on Twitter @lizzmoffat or @SFU_OLC
Want to hear more about my Co-op insights? Read the rest of the Diary of a Marketing Co-op series.
Beyond the Blog
- Check out the Communications Co-op Blog, Communique, for more stories like Elizabeth's!