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Monday, April 12, 2010

What I learned on my Romanian Vacation

I just spent a week in Romania. I know it's not the typical vacation spot, but we're trying to take advantage of our few years in Europe by seeing everything we can. While there, we ate great food (really great, I gained 4 pounds), saw interesting sights and, of course, picked up a few career lessons. Here are a few of the things I learned on my vacation.

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. In Bucharest we visited the People's Palace, which was the massive, expensive, and over-sized last project of Communist Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceau┼čescu. Our tour guide took us into a massive ballroom and noted that Ceau┼čescu wanted the ceiling to open up so that he could escape by helicopter, if need be. He also did not want central air conditioning for fear that his enemies would try to poison him that way. See, paranoid? Of course, he had good reason to be paranoid and he was, shortly thereafter, toppled and executed by his enemies.

I'd like to tell you that any paranoia you may have is craziness, but this is one of those cases where there were many people out to get him. There may be people intent on bringing you down, or at least keeping you below them. You do need to keep an eye out for those types of people and make sure you don't get caught off guard. And if you are the boss, don't be dictatorial and your chances of being caught in a Human Resources led coup are much smaller.

Sometimes the most important requirement for the job is not the one you would think. We spent three days in a rural area of Transylvania and stayed at an inn run by an actual Romanian Count and took a couple of tours with Monica. She was smart and funny and knowledgeable and put up with our incessant questions. (We like to learn while on vacation.) We found out that when she was hired she spoke very little English. This is a problem when 90% of your clients are from the UK or USA. But, she jumped in with both feet and learned English. She had the other requisite skills (knowledge of the area and a degree in European and Art History), but not this one critical skill. Fortunately her employer had the foresight to hire her.

I'm sure many places would have rejected her because she lacked that one critical skill. Be careful not to reject the person who would do the best at the job overall, just because she happens to lack one skill. If she has the desire and capability to learn this missing piece, you may want to give her the chance.

Thinking outside the coffin box really works. While Vlad the Impaler, the loose inspiration for Dracula, wasn't a real vampire, he certainly killed enough people to be an honorary one. There is a story that he managed to escape pursuers by having his horse's shoes placed on backwards. Now, I don't know how comfortable it was for the horse, but it worked. His would-be attackers couldn't see where Vlad had gone because they didn't think that these tracks leading "towards" them would indicate his path.

Sometimes we try to solve our problems the same way everyone else has. And for good reason--it works to run away from your enemies. But, sometimes, thinking a little bit differently can help us solve these problems in better way. Make sure you come up with some varied and unusual ideas for your problems. You may be surprised at how effective they can be.


Patricia said...

great post! I would love to visit Romania!

Annie W. said...

Hi! I am Romanian living in Switzerland :) (how cool is that!) and quite faithful reader of your blog. I am happy you enjoyed your trip (Transilvania is a good pick) and thank you for the nice article.

I hope you keep enjoying the european experience,

All the best,

Evil HR Lady said...

Annie, so great to "meet" you. We had a great time in Romania. We love living in Switzerland.