So you’ve been presented with an opportunity. It could be a brand collaboration for boosting awareness. Maybe you’re considering a job offer after a grueling interview process. Perhaps a friend wants to work with you on a new idea. How do you decide whether to accept or pass? Besides evaluating the general pros and cons, Sasheer Zamata has slightly more unconventional advice that could apply to any of these scenarios.
During BlogHer Biz, the comedian, actress, and writer—who co-hosts the Best Friends podcast alongside former BlogHer speaker Nicole Byer—imagines her projects as potential long-term relationships. This means you want to ensure that if you move forward, everyone flourishes collectively and individually. By reviewing a professional decision the way you would a potential partner, you may feel more confident about asking questions and prioritizing your mental health.
“This could last for years, so I wanna be comfortable and I want to be in a relationship where I feel heard and I feel respected,” she said. “There’s a push-and-pull, symbiotic relationship happening. If I don’t feel that in any relationship, I need to speak up. There needs to be ‘counseling’ or whatever happens to make it better for all parties.”
It’s a lesson Zamata didn’t learn on a TV or film set, but through the volunteer program Americorps when she first moved to New York. She was one of a few young people on a team of mostly older people and struggled to bridge the generation gap with her ideas.
“There was a bunch of older people who were like, ‘we have to do community development by knocking on doors and hitting the pavement!’ And I’d say, ‘or a Facebook group!’ I just felt very unheard and outnumbered.”
Over time, her enthusiasm waned and she was ready to quit over what she felt was a lack of progress. Luckily, her program manager convinced her otherwise so she could nurture a skill she continues to use today.
“My Americorps program manager was like, you can’t just quit. You have to communicate how you feel and maybe things can get better. And I was like…that’s not fun but okay. And that honestly helped me with future relationships, personal, professional, and just making moves in my career. If I don’t say anything at all, the problem will just fester and it will continue with other people after me. I might as well say something because the worst-case scenario is that it’s still bad.”
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