I've had the opportunity recently to mentor (or at least not
corrupt) a graduating college senior eager to join the work force. When she
asked me what it is they don't tell you about in college, I told her she'd need
to learn how to find the rock.
In case you're not familiar with finding the rock, I'll
enlighten you. This is the game you may have to play (repeatedly) with your
manager who is too busy or frazzled to give you specific requirements for
whatever he or she needs you to find, fix, figure out, or otherwise take care
The game starts when she catches you off guard in the
hallway, as you're heading out for the weekend, or in an oblique email. She'll
tell you to do something about which you know nothing. She'll need it almost
immediately. And, she'll have or will give you no other qualifying information.
Now it's your turn. You need to find the rock. Since you
have no idea what kind or how big a rock you should find, you'll need to rifle
through your recent memory files for clues about this particular rock's
requirements. Could it be for the meeting she has next week? Perhaps. Is this
in response to the request she got yesterday about that escalated case? Could
be. Will it cause unexpected political ripples if you involve another person or
team in your quest for the rock? Maybe, but that's a risk you might have to
So, you use your best deductive reasoning skills and consult
whatever stars, cards (or bars) that help you steer your wagon and you bring
her the rock you're sure will meet her ambiguous needs.
You're back to the beginning knowing-at least-that the first
rock you brought wasn't the right one. And the clock is still ticking. The game
concludes after as many rounds as are needed to procure the right rock. There
are no winners.
Looking back, I suppose I got some benefit out of the many
rounds of Find the Rock I was forced to play. My skills at observation were
sharpened significantly, as was my ability to think on my feet. And most
importantly, I vowed to never, ever make anyone find a rock for me.
There is one other good thing about my Find the Rock
adventures. There never was an actual rock, or I might be writing to you from
inside a Federal penitentiary.
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