I recently gave a project to a colleague. A week later that colleague delivered the task, but the quality was not acceptable. When I asked whether she was proud of this work, she offered several reasons why she couldn’t successfully complete the assignment.
My frustration grew, not necessarily because of the lack of quality, but more because of this person’s “can’t do” attitude. I proceeded to give several simple solutions to overcoming her perceived challenges.
HR professionals and corporate friends frequently cite a lack of initiative and problem-solving ability as their biggest frustration with employees and interns. Here is a quick test to see whether you are a “can do” or a “can’t do” performer.
1. When faced with a challenging assignment, do you:
a) Quickly get overwhelmed and list (out loud or in your head) all of the problems you might face in completing the task?
b) Get excited to show your strategic thinking and creative abilities?
2. The career search is overwhelming. To increase your chances of scoring a great job do you:
a) Post your résumé on several career sites so a lot of employers will see your information?
b) Customize your résumé and cover letter for every job you see, read industry publications to identify companies that are thriving, find the contact person for whom you wish to work, and apply for informational interviews even if there isn’t a public job listing?
3. You have too many things on your to-do list, and your boss or professor gives you yet another assignment. Do you:
a) Get annoyed and just get it done so it is off your desk?
b) Consider this a way to show your great multitasking ability and complete the assignment flawlessly?
4. You are asked to do research about a competitor for a presentation. Do you:
a) Conduct a quick Google search. When you can’t find much information, you ask your boss where you should look, and then copy the company background from its website?
b) Visit the company website, press room and investor pages, review its annual reports, do a news article search, and create a formal competitive analysis that includes a side-by-side comparison of not only this company, but also its top three competitors?
5. You are asked to stay late for a big client meeting. Do you:
a) Tell your boss you can’t because you made dinner plans and you have a long commute. Besides, you are exhausted and don’t get paid nearly enough to work such ridiculous hours?
b) View this as an amazing opportunity to grow professionally as a valuable member of the team?
6. When you earned a lower grade than you expected in school, did you:
a) Blame the unfair teacher whose assignment was unclear and warn your classmates not to take that course?
b) Review your work and think about how you can tweak your study habits to make sure you get a better grade on the next assignment?
If you answered mostly “a,” you should stop making excuses and start taking more responsibility for your professional success. Remember, you have control over the choices you make and your work ethic. Do an honest assessment of your skills and abilities, and fix any issues with a personal test of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT).
If you answered mostly “b,” well done. You have a passion for your work and probably are resourceful in how you navigate personal and professional challenges. You don’t wait for others to drag you along; you illustrate a positive outlook and make success happen for yourself. Now, create a PR plan to chart a course for even greater success with this outline.
Be confident, and take initiative. Make challenges synonymous with opportunities. This outlook change ensures you will lead a happier and more productive personal and professional life.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide. A version of this story appeared on www.lorrabrown.com.