September 26, 2011

5 Career Lessons That You Can Learn From Training a Puppy

I was inspired by a blog post written by Jill Dyche that I recently read entitled ‘Leadership Lessons from Colby the Dog.’ It discusses all the traits that her beloved companion possessed that were also true for great leadership in the workplace.  So, two months after acquiring a pup of my own, I’ve realized that there are numerous similarities between the training of my dog Sophie and my new career as a marketing consultant.

Persistence is necessary: Any great dog trainer will tell you that the key to housetraining your dog is persistence.  Are there times when it’s pouring rain outside and Sophie suddenly needs to go outside? Yes.  Have there been times when I’ve encountered an issue at work that I couldn’t solve right away? Of course!  If you ever had the illusion that you would come out of school knowing everything that you will need in your career…you’re dead wrong.  I thought I knew PowerPoint quite well after graduating.  Turns out, I was wrong (actually, most people don’t know enough about PowerPoint presentations).  Every single project demands ongoing learning and cognitive discipline to learn from the past and apply to the future.  Persistence (along with some determination) has been a great asset in my problem solving thus far.

Getting angry does nothing: Sophie is really smart…sometimes she’s too smart for her own good.  It’s easy to get upset when I catch her being a little bit mischievous (I actually found out she ate one of my books while writing this post).  But, she’s not going to learn anything from me being angry.  Frustrating situations are bound to come up in the workplace; getting angry doesn’t solve anything.  There are skills that I didn’t have, technical issues that I wasn’t been able to solve and processes that I didn’t understand.  I’ve found the easiest way to get past them is to put your head down and work harder.

Things will evolve very quickly: When I got Sophie she was 15lbs.  Now she’s 30lbs.  She’ll eventually be 60lbs.  She’s growing quite quickly.  There are things I’ve already learned in the workplace that I can’t believe I ever worked without.  I’ve read countless articles, taken many notes and participated in lots of webinars.  I’ve gone from blank documents to major methodology build-outs.  Deadlines come quickly, and your next one will pass soon.  Look at where you were 6 months ago and see how much has changed.  Things evolve quickly in your career, and you want to take every advantage of learning that you can.

Love it: Sophie has done so many things wrong; she has jumped, barked, played, chewed, raced and even gone to the bathroom when she wasn’t supposed to.  But, she has also been a very loving, loyal, friendly and smart dog.  People seem to always point out what is going wrong at work.  Hours can be long, deadlines can come too soon, lunch break can be too short and commute can be too long.  However, aren’t there things that you love about it?  For me it’s an intrinsic feeling that I’m helping somebody else with a problem.  I’m happy to say that I truly love what I do.

Don’t expect a 9-5: Sophie is a champ at sleeping all night, but it hasn’t always been that way.  Our first couple weeks were spent together awake at 4am.  Similarly, I’ve had nights up till 4am working on projects and trying to meet deadlines.  True accomplishment doesn’t come easy, and one of the things that can go out the window is a regularly scheduled departure from work.  Guess what, it’s worth it.

As Jill said in her post:  “[it] brings a new meaning to bring your dog to work day.”

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.


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