Creating Your Own “Stretch” Assignments (Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation)

Photo Credit: ©2015 Jack D. Cohen
Photo Credit: ©2015 Jack D. Cohen

September 10, 2015Catalyst is full of doers: marathon runners, hikers, zip-liners; independent women and men who bring as much passion and energy to their life interests and hobbies as they do to their mission-focused work lives.

I, however, do not share these outside interests. I am a born and raised city slicker. I don’t know how to swim, or ride a bike, or even drive a car. I also have a pretty intense fear of flying. This is a lot to confess, but it won’t come as a surprise to many of my colleagues, because I work in an inclusive workplace where differences are valued.

But even though I’m lucky and work in a place where I’m accepted for my uniqueness, I would also like to be more “warrior” and less “worrier” in both my personal and professional lives.

While I still lack in a number of transportation-related areas, I am proud to report that this born-and-bred Brooklynite has officially been to her first national park (Acadia), watched a meteor shower on top of Cadillac Mountain in the middle of the night, and even had an enjoyable time kayaking.

As a librarian, I knew I wouldn’t do any of this without first doing some research. Up-to-the-minute weather conditions and state-of-the-art equipment would need to be readily accessible: flashlights, hand warmers, and sunscreen, to name a few. Also, what is a kayak and how do I keep from tipping while in one? Do we have enough time to conduct a background check on this “highly qualified” guide? How do I find out about the life jackets we’ll be using and whether the company that makes them has ever issued any recalls? Why must orientation leaders and guides always rely on analogies and examples like, “It’s as easy as riding a bike” or “Pretend you are driving your car”?

Although vacations may not directly help you with your job, pushing yourself to draw on inner strengths and create positive new experiences will come in handy when you’re facing a new challenge in your career. My fear of flying has had the biggest impact on my career. Before joining Catalyst I would immediately dismiss any open positions that required travel. Now I feel empowered to push past my fears.

Supportive friends and co-workers are key, especially those in senior positions who can act as mentors or sponsors. As a member of the Catalyst Awards Evaluation Committee, which requires travel for site visits, I have had to travel for work. In my first year, I was able to get around by train, but last year I had to take multiple domestic flights. I knew I could get through the flight, but my main fear was whether I’d be able to represent myself and Catalyst to the best of my ability and get my work done, rather than dreading and fixating on the return flight. Would I be an asset or a nuisance to my fellow team members and senior staff?

In the end, my Awards teammate and travel companion was the one who suggested I write this blog, which I think is a good indication of my success. I was proud of myself for going and for earning the trust and respect of my team. I won’t be promoted for going kayaking on vacation or taking a short domestic flight for work, but I will happily promote Catalyst for creating an environment where my desire to grow outweighs my fear of failing.




The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.