After two decades of school and work, I have become accustomed to my educational and professional strengths and weaknesses.
It was determined early that I am not very good at math. I rely on a calculator for the simplest equations, not only because I can’t do them on paper but to avoid the embarrassment of having a figure wrong in addition or subtraction.
I am also bad at many sciences. Although I understand the elements of natural sciences like earth and physical, I’ve failed enough chemistry and geology classes to know I should stay away from those areas.
Alternatively, I am skilled in English and grammar. I consider myself to be a good communicator.
Another weak field of mine, though, is statistics. I was resigned to avoid any sort of statistical analysis that required data, math or a combination of the two.
That was until I started graduate school.
So far, many parts of grad school, my internship and prospective careers are in line with skills I have (or am developing) and work I like to do.
Statistical analysis and presentation have become a significant part of my internship duties.
Normally, I would exert a lot of energy trying to get out of the task. After all, I’m not good at it, right? I shouldn’t have to do something that I am bad at, and why would anyone want me to do something I don’t know how to do very well?
Something we often forget to determine is whether we actually can’t do something or just don’t want to do it.
It took me a few weeks to convince myself that gaining a better understanding of statistics and the use of programs such as Excel would benefit my career.
I had clumsily learned and used these skills in class. I had never been relied on to create something of importance (other than for a grade) with these tools.
I tried my best. I looked at tutorials online. And then I broke down and asked for help. It worked.
I got better at using spreadsheets; I learned about the tools and methods. I actually enjoyed putting together a statistical report, and I look forward to my next assignment.
Most importantly, I figured out the reason I could never grasp statistics in a meaningful way is because I didn’t want to. It seemed boring and hard, so I never bothered to learn it.
I am good at a lot of things, and I can bring those things with me to work. But I have realized in my few short years as an employee that there are parts of every job you will like and parts you won’t.
I like most parts of my internship. I like event planning, grant application writing and working with local businesses.
I didn’t like statistics (and I still don’t love it), until I learned the right way to analyze and present data.
I’m still learning how to do that, and I’m also learning that if I knew how to do everything at my job, I would be pretty bored. It is nice to be able to do things well, but it is also important to be challenged.
I will never be a spreadsheet wizard, but I have come a long way from knowing nothing about stats. I realized, too, that I have come even farther for wanting to know instead of trying to avoid it.
• Lauren Stott is a Maple Park native and a graduate student at Northern Illinois University in the master of public administration program. She can be reached at email@example.com.