By Kathleen Connolly
I remember when I was in high school all of my friends would call me an ‘old soul’. Someone they could talk to when things got tough. Someone they trusted for advice when they couldn’t make a decision. And someone who mysteriously knew where to look to find the most obscure items. Funnily enough, I have managed to turn these qualities into a career and inadvertently become the ‘go-to’ person in many of the organisations I have worked for, including my current role as Operations Manager at UTS:Careers. This has not always been easy and for those who can relate to being the go-to, you know you are often stretched very thin and have many hands in many pies. Some days, it is pie overload.
For those who have found themselves in the same situation, or those who just wanted to understand how it is done, below are some steep learning curves I had to take in order to stay sane and make sure I still loved my job :
Time management is your friend
Whether you organise yourself with an old school diary and pen (yep, that’s me) or are inseparable from your iCal, managing your time is key to getting anything done.
I get asked a thousand questions a day (not really, but sometimes it feels like that). Being able to stop what you’re doing, help someone, and then keep working on your previous task is hard as hell. I usually start my week by looking at what meetings and tasks I need to complete and block out time in my calendar accordingly. Categorising my work by the urgent-important principle is key to staying on task and ensures that I can fit in unexpected work as it comes.
Recruit your colleagues
The old saying of ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ is very important when being the go-to person. As much as I’d love to answer every question of “where can I find [insert everything here]?”, if you can show your colleagues the basics, they may not need to ask again and they may even be able to help someone else with the same question. Some of the best techniques I have used are:
- Inserting file paths on the footer of documents and sending the link instead of emailing the document;
- Training your colleagues in how to use a system ensures you are not the only source of assistance (AKA the world doesn’t end if someone goes on holidays);
- Create documentation on how to do tasks, and schedule regular updates to capture any changes to the process.
Always be transparent and take responsibility
The truth is no one expects you to be able to do everything. They didn’t hire a super hero, they hired a human. A human that sometimes makes mistakes
If you can’t get that report to someone because you have a million other tasks, be honest with them early and you’ll avoid that awkward conversation when the deadline comes around. If you accidentally told 100 people that an event was in Building 8 and it was actually in Building 10, take responsibility and own up to your mistake.
By always using excuses you don’t give yourself the ability to learn from your mistakes. From my experience, people are much more forgiving when you are open and honest with them. It means that next time they may give you extra time to do that report, or ask another colleague to help you out. Above all, it allows them to build trust in you and we all know that is essential to a healthy relationship, professional or otherwise.
When the going gets tough…
…the tough go home. I love my job but sometimes it can be incredibly stressful and you feel like there are not enough hours in the universe to do everything.
Keeping a healthy work/life balance is essential to succeeding as the go-to person in your organisation, after all there is a lot more to life than working. Making sure that you are not always eating lunch at your desks, chatting to your colleagues about things not related to work (like Netflix, amirite?), and leaving work on time are all simple things you can do to make sure you keep enjoying your work.
Being the go-to person doesn’t always mean you’ll have the answer, but I enjoy the challenge of helping the person find it; whether it is delivering a report, putting a colleague in touch with the right person, or even the finding best bar for happy hour.
So if you are a go-to person, remember not to be too hard on yourself and give yourself a pat on the back every now and again – you make other people’s lives easier just by being in it.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.