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New Professionals: “No” Is a Word, Too

EACE Blog contribution by Tiffany Waddell, Assistant Director of Career Development at Davidson College

It took me a long time to acknowledge and accept the power of the word “no.” A full sentence – generally requiring little to no explanation – it can be a professional’s best friend.  In the early days of young professional life, I found myself operating similar to the way I did as an eager undergraduate student at a small liberal arts college: do more, with less time, and do it all exceptionally well – by any means necessary.  Of course, this is not a very sustainable way of life, nor one for the faint of heart.  Saying “yes” to various opportunities, projects, and requests that come your way is a great way to build relationships across an organization.  It is also a great way to cross-train and gather experience along the way.  Once you are perceived as engaged and reliable, it can even lead to new opportunities, projects, and requests that further stretch your professional capacity to take on even more opportunities, projects, and….well, you get my drift, right? 


But what happens when the ethereal work/life balance ideal that we all want, feels a bit out of reach?  What happens when burnout comes quickly and with a vengeance?  Does your new lack of enthusiasm mean you aren’t actually built for the task or role at hand?  In creeps the imposter syndrome that many of us know and love (to hate).  Saying no can feel like you are sabotaging your own career – or, at least so I used to think.  Saying no as appropriate allows me to not just get things done, but better handle all of the things on my plate.  Being busy does not always mean better.  Though I am pretty good at managing my time – I find that creating more space to work on things also fosters much more creativity.  My overall sense of wellbeing is higher, and I am less likely to take work home with me (unless I want to, as opposed to feeling like I have to in order to stay afloat with my to-do list).  Saying no, as appropriate, breeds healthy practice and work/life strategy.  My call to action for you today, is to try it. It’s not always easy – but it is a must for survival and continued excellence and creativity.

waddell-tiffanyTiffany Waddell is the Assistant Director for Career Development at Davidson College. She has coached hundreds of budding young professionals on how to create strategic action plans for academic and career-related goals.  Affectionately known for her “tough love” approach to coaching and people development, she is an avid connector of people and ideas.  Waddell received both her BA and MA from Wake Forest University. Connect with her on Twitter @tiffanyiwaddell and start a conversation!

One Comment
  1. marisajoseph2015 #

    This is something I need to practice. I either say yes or always feel the need to explain if I say no. Thanks for sharing ;0).

    March 26, 2015

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