(c) 2009 Lori Lange, Lange and Lambert families wearing many hats!

(c) 2009 Lori Lange,
Lange and Lambert families wearing many hats!

My American literature professor spent a lot of class time discussing author Ernest Hemingway’s “grace under pressure” concept. I admit that I am macho enough to admire some of the themes from Hemingway’s works. I suppose that goes back to the German-American pioneer spirit imbued in my genes, or at least in my upbringing.

Well, I have that grace. In a crisis it takes a lot for me to become that cliché character in movies that starts hyperventilating at the first sign of difficulties.

I have walked through many fires and not been burned—even when I have been singed.

I get that I have not worked full-time for years and that when I have worked, it has been as a freelance writer and editor or as a volunteer or as a daughter, wife, or parent. I don’t always know programs or letters, such as Photoshop or SEO optimization. But know that other than some word processing I was taught to do on a Wang system (and, yes, that really was a big computer system in a time long ago, not something obscene), I have taught myself everything. I was handed a manual and told if I read it, then I could probably learn how to create spreadsheets—I’ve been through Lotus, Quattro Pro, and Excel all on my own and I’m damn good at spreadsheets—not because I’ve been trained, but because I’m the sort of analytical person who loves the clarity spreadsheets can provide. I’ve switched from the WordPerfect I loved to Word because my work needed to be put into Quark in chart format—which I learned to do from doing it. Software programs come and go—and I learn them when applicable to what I need to do.

When my circulation boss left right before the auditor called, I figured out how to prepare the requested reports and proofs for the auditor. I read industry resources and called contacts and got the information I needed to meet the requirements and then exceed those as I had more preparation and time to develop my own systems.

In fact, the only time I have been trained to do much of anything in my work life is when I standardized financial data for a McGraw Hill company—I was rather in awe that I got to work for a couple months just learning—what a concept, right? Before I was done with that job, I was the person who created the new training manuals/programs for two specific industry groups.

Writing and editing? Not trained except as a college student and with the introductory studies in my graduate publishing program. But once again, I have utilized written resources and contacts, although I have not really got into watching online videos—I’m not so auditory in my learning style that I have converted to that type of learning, although it’s good to know that I can if I am stumped.

And I can’t tell you how many times my MBA studies have been relevant in both my volunteer work and my family life. I’ve used operations management techniques for standardizing and improving back room operations for large volunteer-run clothing and equipment sales and my knowledge of accounting and finance for analyzing financial reports as oversight for the local school district, a non-profit preschool, and any other volunteer organization I have supported. Plus, without my MBA, I doubt I could have proven to a large hospital and our insurance company just why the billing was wrong and why we were the ones owed money, not the institution.

Then there is all I had to do to “rescue” my mother from the details of her life as she fell into dementia. I had to jump in to her finances and analyze what she had and hadn’t done and come up with a plan for catching up and going forward. I had to manage her healthcare, finances, possessions, and real estate—and still find time to love her and my own kids who were still at home.

At the same time my daughter experienced her own health crisis (the one that led to the big billing problem) that required weekly if not more frequent medical trips as well as handling the human side of that crisis.

Even so, during these twin crises, I was still editing, volunteering, and exercising, as well as managing our own household finances, appointments, possessions, pets, etc. Everything that was essential was completed, but at the same time I didn’t feel I could commit myself to outside work and do it justice.

Those days are past. I have been baptized by fire and am ready to share my abilities with a worthy organization. No, my path has not been straight and I am not an expert in one particular thing. But if a computer program is spitting me out for not having “x” years of experience in this or that, then I will never get a chance to show just how much I can do. I need a hiring manager who has the imagination to understand the assets my life experiences, character traits, and my skills are and how they can add to an organization’s value.

On the other hand, I realize that there is still so much for me to learn about the way workplaces are now. Just because I have an MBA, that doesn’t mean I think I should start at the top. But know that I am a loyal person and when the time comes that I get a chance to dig in and begin at a lower level, I will put my powers of learning to whatever tasks are at hand and grow both myself and the organization that hires me.

I am relevant in so many ways—what I call “grace under pressure” is now called “grit”—and that I have in spades.