Lessons that Transcend the Workplace

By: Janiel Shamarah Bryan, Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel participant and 2017 Ambassador Scholar

I stepped into the work world on May 15, 2017. I did not know what to expect! I was excited to be in a new environment, working at my first real job and meeting new people, but I was also a bit scared. What if I made mistakes, or what if my co-workers and host organization was mean to me? These were just a few of the questions running through my mind upon my arrival in Mackinaw City, Michigan. It has been three months since I began working, and although there have been times when I wanted to give up, I stood my ground and worked to the best of my ability. I have learned so many lessons while working here, but there are some that have really resonated with me.

First, mistakes are inevitable. This may seem simple, but it is really important to understand that we are all human, and as such we are imperfect and will make mistakes. During the first few days of work, I would beat myself up when I made a mistake with a guest’s reservation or I messed up an order, but not anymore. I have not only had supportive co-workers and a supportive host organization but understanding customers. The point is that we should not do mediocre work because we are imperfect, but rather we should aim for the best, but expect shortfalls.

Another lesson I have learned while working is the importance of respecting different people, their opinions, their religious views, sexual preferences, culture, and personal space (this is more so the case for Americans, in my opinion). I can say that I was tolerant of most of these things before this summer, but being in a different society with a variety of people has definitely taught me how to respect others 100%. I have also learned that being nice and respectful to others goes a long way. For example, I now have Amish friends! This is very exciting for me because I learned so much about the Amish culture. It is very different than how the media portrays it.

The third lesson I have learned will definitely be useful outside of my professional career in the future. This lesson is the importance of working together. The workload is definitely lighter, and the atmosphere is less tense when we work as a team. Of course, we’ve all heard this growing up, but being in a work situation where you are dependent on your co-workers to carry their load to ensure a smooth work day has made me realize how important teamwork truly is – both in the workplace and outside of it.

All of these lessons will help me with my professional career in the future. They will also help me to be a better person, a better leader, employee, and maybe one day, an employer. I will also be a better global citizen, as I am able to respect people despite our differences, whether they are religious, cultural, sexual preferences, or anything else. Finally, I have learned to appreciate the simple things in life.

Working without a passion makes the job harder, so I will definitely choose a career that I am passionate about!

Refine your skills for the workplace and as a citizen by spending your summer with Greenheart Exchange!