The one time it is okay to cry at work

If you have to cry, go outside! by Kelly Cutrone is at the top of my stack of Career Must Reads. It is a motto I have kept in mind since the beginning of the job search process to one year into my first real job. Lately, however, I have found the one exception to that rule. I mentioned a few months ago that my manager and mentor was leaving the company to pursue other opportunities. This came as quite a shock and definitely put our team on edge. We had been uncertain about our future and what was to come, especially as her last day loomed ahead. I think our team is nervous to lead ourselves while HR looks for the right fit, knowing that finding someone can be quite a lengthy process. In the meantime, we have all met one on one with our manager to help with the transition.

When I met with my boss individually, I told myself over and over again that I would not cry.

I won’t let it happen.

Not here.

No.

Well…let’s just say I failed.

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As I sat in her office, she began to talk about my role here as her assistant. Hearing someone I admire and respect speak so highly of me and the work I have done was overwhelming. It is such a strange moment when someone you respect and admire speaks of you with so much appreciation, knowing that they will no longer be in the office in a matter of weeks. I was surprised by her thoughts of me as her assistant, because in the real world there are no grades, so it’s sometimes hard to tell where you stand. So lets just say I was caught off guard by all the kind things she said. And then my eyes started to well up with tears. I kept hearing Kelly Cutrone’s voice in my head to wait until I was in private to cry. But I couldn’t help myself.

These were not tears of hurt or anxiety, but ones of true sadness that I was losing such an incredible mentor. She has guided me throughout the past year and has allowed me to take on so much more outside my job description. She never treated me as just her assistant, but as a valuable member of the team. I cannot even put into words how grateful I am to have had a manager that was such a strong, poised, and widely respected woman in the corporate world. She treated our team like family, but also always encouraged us to push ourselves and do more. It is rare to find a mentor so early on in your career, so I am thankful to have found such an incredible one at the get go. I know that this is not goodbye, she will forever be my mentor. I am looking forward to seeing what adventure she takes on next, because any company would be lucky to have her.

A few months ago an executive at my company and I were chatting at a photo shoot and he asked me what I wanted to be “when I grow up.” I paused, smiled, and said I wanted to be just like my manager. It sounds cliché but it’s true. I hope to one day be the kind of mentor she is, someone who is widely respected, strong, talented, and kind. This is a rare combination. She took a chance on me. Most executives tend to hire assistants with more experience, not a recent college graduate. My manager, however, recognized the dilemma so many post grads face. How are we supposed to get a job if we have no experience? She understood and looked for someone she could help grow and I will be forever thankful to her for hiring me and for mentoring me over this past year.

I will say, I definitely do not recommend crying at your office. Especially if you are upset or hurt because of a coworker’s comment or manager’s frustration. Those are the moments you go outside and take a walk, or even just duck into the restroom to cry for a few minutes, never in your managers office. But I think tearing up in my boss’s office showed how much I deeply respect her and how grateful I am to her for all she has given me. And hey, I’m only human!

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