Go from behind the counter to your own office

Gen at age 20

Do you want to make a change that seems overwhelming? You can succeed in a daunting situation using three ideas from the theater:

  • Practice
  • Putting it on
  • Pretending as-if

Gen at age 20One of my earliest lessons in the power of using external elements for change was in my early 20s.

I’d spent most of my time either wandering in Europe or working in food service when I was back in the States until I saved enough money to go back to Europe.

As my money went to hostels and plane tickets, I couldn’t afford a car. I got around Santa Cruz on my motorcycle in good weather and on the bus in bad.

My undergrad degree was in language studies, so I knew a good deal about linguistics and medieval France, but little about modern day American business.

I looked around and saw that there weren’t many opportunities to move upward in the places I worked. Until I took a managerial role (undesirable) or an ownership track (even less desirable), I could see that I’d still be making lattés in 10 years.

I decided I would work in an office because offices seemed to hold promotional powers that cafés didn’t. I had the ability to smile and to type. I still needed more and this is where the boldness of theater helped me.

How did I go from hippie mocha maker to a professional with good prospects?


First, I practiced my introduction. I stood in the mirror and presented myself. I worked on smiling before I answered the phone as I’d read that a smile makes your voice sound friendlier when you answer.

What will you need to do in your new role? Practice it in the safety of home or with a friend. The more you get used to the newness in privacy, the smoother it will go when you try it in public. Memorize what you need to know and say. Just like an actor runs through his lines, polish your message until it’s perfect. You’ll be ready to shine when the curtain rises!

Put it on

I needed an outfit to support me in my new career path. I imagined women who worked in offices wore silk shirts. I went to a second-hand store and bought a deep blue silk shirt with a large bow in front. Once I was in my silk shirt, I felt different. This is the power of costume.

An actor knows that clothing helps you become a different person. As my basketball player son told me, “When I put on the jersey, I’m no longer me. I’m part of the team.”

Find the outfit that fits your new role. Which clothes make you feel strong and powerful? Is there a certain color you feel most confident in?

Pretend as-if

Gen's Zen DenFinally, I thought about business people and sought to act like one. I was nervous when I went to interview and present myself as a professional.

Would they see I knew more about layering espresso in foamed milk than operating computers and phone switchboards? Inside I was as squirrely as a rodent about to fight over the last acorn.

I wasn’t familiar with business culture but I acted as if I was a competent office worker and guess what? I have my own office now!

I feel a sense of belonging in my office. I’ve made it a comfortable place where I can be productive and welcome my coworkers. My office is called Gen’s Zen Den. I’m glad I dared to make a change and try a new career.

Act confident today, be confident tomorrow!

You don’t have to feel confident to seem confident. Practice what you’ll need to do. Dress the part. Act as if you know what you’re doing. Watch and learn.

You won’t feel out of place for long. Time is a great friend—soon you will know what you’re doing and feel confident!

Which techniques helped you seem confident when you felt the opposite? Tell me about them!

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