Recently I received a compliment from a person I barely knew, and it completely made my day. Let me paint the scene for you…
I was on one of my first temp jobs. Now folks, though temping may sound like the easiest job in the world, it is HARD. Often times temp jobs are just a few days long, sometimes you are only there for 1 day! And somehow, they expect you to come into a brand new office knowing everyone and everything that is going on, even though you haven’t even so much as seen the office building before. Generally people are pretty nice, and allow a few mistakes, but after you have been at the desk for about a hour, they expect miracles (…because 1 hour is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to master a brand new craft in a brand new setting…).
Temping is a lot like reliving the first day of school, over and over again. Running around trying to get to class before the bell rings, trying to figure out who the school bullies are before they figure out you’re the new kid, hoping to find a friend to sit with at lunch, praying you can just fit in but still stand out enough for the cool kids to notice you… Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be a temp at a studio! I have met some amazing people, seen some pretty awesome things before the public and I have learned so so much.
But on this particular day, I was temping for the assistant of 2 Vice Presidents of a department I have zero experience in. I felt completely lost. I mean I can handle the basics like Outlook and phone etiquette, that was not the problem. The problem was, I had never worked with these VPs before. I didn’t know if they were the type to answer their own phones, if they needed to be reminded to go to their meetings, what was considered urgent, who was considered urgent, etc. Managing 1 busy executive is hard enough, but 2 executives who have completely different schedules? Color me terrified. I learned quickly they were not the type to say please and thank you, and they pretty much didn’t want to be bothered with any questions I had… SWELL. So I sat down and told myself I’ve got 2 options. Either literally run away and give up the chance of pretty much ever working in Hollywood again (reputations spread faster out here than in the high school cafeteria after prom night) OR suck it up and make it to 6:30 (only to do it all over again tomorrow).
I chose the latter. I straightened out my dress, put on a smile and tried to power through as much as I could on my own. Luckily, there was another assistant a few cubes down who was extremely helpful. I might have actually chose the running away option if he was not there. Somehow, by the end of the day I had successfully rearranged both VPs schedules so they could make all their meetings (I credit that to 10+ years of playing Tetris) and was able to create and organize over 40 packets of information for my boss’s meeting that might as well have been in Latin because I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about. It wasn’t until about 6:20pm that I realized I had almost made it through the first day.
But what most temps and assistants conquer in a day, is usually not seen by anyone else. Assistants could quite literally save a persons life in their cube while balancing 10 plates on their nose and discover the cure for cancer, but no one would ever know. The role of an assistant is to make sure your boss’s day goes as smoothly as possible, they don’t care how you get it done and it’s more probable you will talk on the phone with an incredibly famous director than hear the words “thank you” come out of your boss’s mouth. So I was all prepared to leave the office that day not having anyone else know how much struggle I overcame in a mere 8.5 hours.
But just as I was leaving, I heard the phone ring a couple cubes down at the helpful assistants desk. The girl who’s desk I was covering was on the other end to check in and see how I had done. Mentally preparing myself for the worst, praying for even a simple “ehhh, she was alright”, I heard, “She was a ROCKSTAR! I would not have been able to handle the plate she had today. If there are ever any openings here, she is first on my list to recommend”. An overwhelming mix of happiness, shock, pride, and exhaustion came over me in the first genuine smile I had had on my face all day. I left that day and sat in traffic for a hour and a half, smiling the entire time. I didn’t even care that I was 5 miles away from home and it took me the equivalent of a New Girl and NCIS episode to get there.
The next 2 days came and went with more calendar Tetris and creating documents that made no sense (to me). At the end of my time at this job, I went to say goodbye and thank you to the helpful assistant. He told me I did a wonderful job and he was impressed with how well I handled myself on one of the craziest desks in the office. I told him thank you for all his help and how much it meant for me to hear that. We parted ways and that was that.
Now I am not writing this post to brag about myself, that was not even close to my intention. In fact I still think I am a terrible temp and every single job I get assigned to still continues to terrify me. I am writing this to say that when I left that last day, I realized how easy it is to give a compliment and how rare it is to hear one. I’m also not saying that I have never gotten a compliment in my life, but honestly how long has it been since someone complimented you and it changed your entire outlook for the rest of the day?
Compliments are powerful, thoughtful and usually needed more than people care to admit. Most importantly, compliments are simple. It is the easiest thing in the world to tell someone their hard work paid off or that their pumpkin pancakes taste amazing. And yet, we don’t say it. I am as guilty of this as anyone! I didn’t tell my friend that I saw how much her hard work paid off or tell my other friend how much I loved her pumpkin pancakes. Why? I don’t know. But what I do know is now that I am aware of the problem, I can start to give out compliments instead of keeping them bottled up inside. I mean, what good are they gonna do in there?
Because the more you think about it… If you saw a friend who was having a tough day, and could fix it just by being nice and saying a few kind words… What’s stopping you?