Everyone knows the old management adage that the Chinese character for crisis is the same as the character for opportunity.
My office is handling a crisis right now. I work for a public school system and one of our schools had a devastating fire two days ago, early on Sunday morning. As a member of the senior staff team, I have been pulled from all of my regular duties to assist with the response plan. And it is 100% overwhelming. I am managing the media and donations, working on community relations, and trying to reroute grant management at the school. This is all "non-essential" compared to the momentous task for finding new classrooms for these students and preparing said classrooms for teachers to teach and students to learn.
Through it all, I'm watching my boss as he rises to the leadership challenge, I'm watching the Principal of the school as she falters, and listening closely to the experts who are advising us on the next steps to take - at least with the public. Every chance I get I talk with students, to learn their reaction so that I might respond in customer-centered ways. And above all, I'm watching myself. How am I reacting to this crisis? Am I stressing out? Am I being strong yet kind? How do I make decisions?
I am preparing to start a lengthy process of readying myself professionally for the next step in my career. I'm not trained in education and don't have the desire to get the necessary academic credentials to move up in the hierarchy. My job is fascinating and is a dead end for me. So what's next? Private sector philanthropy? Think tank research and development? Higher education? A higher position within the government? Legislative advisor? I'm not sure yet, but I do know that I need to cultivate my projection of myself as a senior staff member, of someone who can take a crisis and make it an opportunity for growth and change.