Finding confidence, pursuing new opportunities at work

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

There are times when I lack motivation and wonder if the work I’m doing is having an impact. I think we all feel that way from time to time, especially if we’re not getting the reinforcement we need at work.

I’m lucky enough to have a boss who gives me a lot of constructive feedback. And lately, I’ve gotten some good reminders that people are reading my stories and responding to them.

Following some pieces I wrote about the News of the World phone hacking scandal last month, I was interviewed for a CNN.com story about why the scandal became a global story. That same week, I was asked to talk about the News of the World fallout as a guest on “Studio 12,” a PBS show that airs throughout Colorado.

I had never been a guest on a TV show before, so I was a little worried about how I would come across. I thought, “I’m not an expert on this subject. I shouldn’t be the one to talk about it.” As I said that, though, I was reminded of a story I wrote earlier this year about the lack of women who contribute to opinion pages. Women, I learned, often underestimate their abilities and say things like, “I’m not an expert in anything. You should really ask another person. I don’t want to be pretentious or snotty. I don’t have a Ph.D.”

I didn’t want to do the same thing, so I decided to challenge myself and pursue the opportunity. I’m glad I did because I came away feeling both humbled and confident — humbled to have been asked, and confident that I was able to answer the interviewers’ questions and sound at least somewhat intelligent. (You can watch the show — which I was interviewed for via Skype — here.)

I tried to remind myself of this feeling of confidence when I taught in a Poynter leadership seminar last week. One of my colleagues invited me to teach a session about using social media to find story ideas and build an audience. I like to think I teach people through the stories I write, but I wondered how effective I’d be as an actual teacher. Turns out, I loved the classroom experience and have agreed to do more teaching.

It’s tough entering a classroom full of participants who have a wide range of social media skills. But I asked participants questions throughout the session to gauge where they were at. This helped me, and it gave the participants an opportunity to teach each other by sharing their own experiences. Teaching was a good reminder of how much I’ve learned about social media throughout the years — mostly through reporting on it. It also helped me realize that just because I regularly use social media sites and tools doesn’t mean everyone does.

The past few weeks have been reaffirming and have given me a renewed sense of energy. It’s easy to get in funks at work, but when we set goals for ourselves and pursue opportunities that push us out of our comfort zone, we can often find the confidence and affirmation we need.

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