My sister began her professional career as a high school English teacher, but quickly decided that elementary education was more to her liking. She quickly obtained a job in a school that she very much liked, but there was a wrinkle; it was an ESL school and my sister spoke only high school level Spanish. To help catch her up her first year, she took a number of classes and purchased tools so that she could continue to learn from home. It was working, but not as quickly as she would have liked. Just before the school year ended, her principal came up with the idea of sending her to Panama (her principal's home country) for a month to learn the culture and more importantly their language. My sister was not much of a world traveler and of course was somewhat nervous at spending a month by herself in a foreign country that did not speak her language. However, by the time she came home she not only had a new appreciation (bordering on love) for Panama, but she was suddenly fluent in a second language. It was a skill that was integral in allowing her to do her job properly and to further develop as a teacher.
We have all been at that stage personally or professionally where we needed to learn a new skill (or even a new job), but the task just seemed so daunting. Of course, training is necessary in any situation, but I think in most instances you can only accumulate a finite amount of prior instruction without the hands-on portion of your education. Furthermore, if you are in a position where you will be supervising another employee(s) it is an excellent way for you to learn you business from the ground up. After all, how can you properly evaluate, appreciate, or even truly know your employees unless you know what it is they do. When it was time for me to incorporate the title of Payroll Coordinator into my position, I sat down for several sessions with our departing coordinator and then took over the position entirely for two weeks. Sure, I had some questions along the way, but by the time those two weeks were over I had a much better understanding of every aspect of our payroll (over 500 people) from both a departmental and university-wide perspective. At the end of those two weeks I was confident when handing the responsibilities back to my Financial Administrator that I could support them in any situation that arose as well as being able to properly evaluate any changes that would become necessary.
At the end of the school year at which my sister utilized her newly found bi-lingual abilities, her principal noticed her new abilities and how it allowed her to interact with students and especially parents. The end result; she offered her the job of Vice Principal. You might be saying to yourself though, "Self, do I have time to learn a major skill/job in a reduced time frame with my already large list of responsibilities?" The truth is, do you have the months that it will take to learn this skill otherwise?
Shaun Bossio is the Assistant Business Manager and ProShop Manager at Boston University FitRec. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org