I innocently overheard a conversation at my workplace last week. It was between two of my coworkers; they sit fairly close by. There is no ego shortage in my particular area of work. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and we all have strong opinions. But I hope that we all have the capacity to accept others’ input, thoughts and ideas. What I overhead suggested that maybe we don’t. We talk at length about stereotyping, systemic barriers and racism, and we all try to watch out for it in our language. But there are those times when a simple statement should be examined, when we need to sit back and say, wow, did I just say that? That’s not right.
It’s those dismissive statements we make, assumptions about a person based on how they present themselves. When a person is sized up and judged on appearances. When someone is dismissed as offering less in the workplace because of their educational background or the type of work that they do. When we make judgments without knowledge, statements without facts. You never know what a person has to offer. Appearances can be deceiving. What a person knows can’t be measured. There are all sorts of contributing factors that help build a person’s knowledge base. Universities can and do churn out thousands of MBAs, PhDs and the like, but having the head knowledge and firing up the neurons to make meaningful connections between that information and the real world, the practical application – for some it just doesn’t happen. For others, even without formal education they will make the connections, they can do the job. It takes all kinds.
So what was it that I overheard? It was a comment related to a job competition and how administrative clerks where applying, and how they should know their place. And yes, I weighed in with my thoughts, they got my input. I started off in the admin pool, I could list off at least six other people now in much higher profile positions than me that started off as admins. I also told them about a young man I worked with 15 years ago, he started as an admin – now he is a director in a division with hundreds of employees. Even with formal education in a specific field you sometimes have to take what you can get and then start down the path to where you want to be. Just because someone is presently acting in an administrative position doesn’t mean they don’t have the knowledge, skills and abilities to progress outside of the clerical realm. It’s called equal opportunity.