Confessions of an Office “Pick Me”: Mistakes & Lessons Learned

“I’m not like other girls”…”no really guys just get me”… Sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s the obnoxious whines of a “Pick Me Girl”. Surprisingly they come in many varieties and genders. The “church pick me”, the “family pick me”, and in my case, the “office pick me”. Today I’m confessing the mistakes I’ve made as an office pick me, the highs and lows, and the lessons I’ve learned to avoid being one again.

What is a Pick Me?

A pick me is a person, often female, who positions themselves as different from the majority of their group for attention, favor, and praise.

Most would deem their words and actions as manipulating, disagreeable, and selfish. But unlike a true “Mean Girl”, they usually don’t intend to be malicious it just comes across as such. Yet the end result is that they land on the other side of the line; all to impress someone who isn’t seriously invested in their future.

So how does that description translate to the workplace?

Pick Me Confession #1: Rehearsed Phrases Didn’t Work

I recall preparing to interview for a job I was overqualified for. At the time, I hadn’t finished my bachelor’s degree which was a point of insecurity. Instead of leaning into my strengths and minimizing the missing pieces, I rehearsed every response I thought they wanted to hear. While this seems like the thing to do to appear prepared and interested, it actually alienated the interviewer.

Consider when you are on a date with someone and they keep pulling out buzzwords and share nothing that shows vulnerability. Would you believe them? Probably not.

Now consider if you were a detective interviewing a suspect, and all the person kept saying was “I’m not like those other criminals” “No really, gang-bangers just get me”. Would you believe them? Probably not.

Lesson Learned

The lesson I learned from trying to appear like the perfect candidate – for jobs that frankly should have loved me – is that when you try to be untouchable, you become untouchable. A self fulfilling prophecy if you will.

One reason a pick me is so frowned upon is because they do things that harm the voice of the marginalized group they themselves belong to. When a superior, or a power client, wants to hear from the group, the voice heard loudest in the crowd is the one saying their name and repeating after them!

Never mind the ones waving red flags and sounding the alarms about safety shortcuts, quality issues and liability loopholes. The only voice they’ll pay attention to is the agreeable one. The pick me.

Wouldn’t you want to stand out and win their attention?

Pick Me Confession #2 : Not All Attention was Rewarded Equally

Categories, buckets, departments… All businesses have a balance sheet, with competing assets, liabilities, and equities. Likewise leader divvy up their energy, interests and priorities as events influence their next best moves.

In project management, we call these influences EEFs (Enterprise Environment Factors). These can be external such as government regulations, international/domestic conflicts, national, regional and local resources, and industry standards.

They can also be internal like company policies and procedures, organizational structure and culture, work politics, and available resources.

Continuing the dating example, if you think you are the only girl on your date’s mind, heart and contact list, you are in for a rude awakening – no matter how special you seem.

Remember our investigator example? Although all crimes are important to solve, not all are urgent. You may think your career demands your company’s best and brightest, when in fact you’re sometimes just another case.

Just another employee.

Lessons Learned

Your day in the sun will come to an end. Your boss will chase another distraction…another new hire…another pick me.

It is in your best interest to balance your quests for attention regularly. Divide them between your family, friends, hobbies. And THEN give your job its’ proper portion.

Pick Me Confession #3: I Had No Endgame

As an office pick me, I often arrived early, stayed late, and worked even more on weekends. Every free moment seemed to revolve around one motive – to see and be seen!

At every dinner I looked around for power players at the bar…

At every trip to the gym, I carried a business card or two…

Every book, movie or TV show had to have a business angle.

In my head, I never really clocked out…

This worked out pretty well in my lower ranking roles. The faithful assistant trope jokes wrote themselves!

Always an assistant, never a boss.

Crazy Wall Casey

That is until I sat for an annual review for a job I’d nearly killed myself for.

Disclaimer: Names, dates, and other identifiers have been altered to protect the guilty and keep me out of court.

It went something like this…

Supervisor: I think you are very bright and ambitious. You’re a team player and are always willing to help out. You are very good at [Insert additional praise and platitudes].

Me: Thanks, I’ve worked hard to prove my worth to the company. In fact, I’d like to propose a revision of my title and compensation to reflect the work I’ve put in, and the additional workload expected in the next year.

Supervisor: Thaaaaaat’s not what we see for your next steps.

Me: What more can I do to prove I’m capable of this role and salary level?

Supervisor: We’ll need to adjust some things, and talk with other key players and get back to you.

Me: When will our next discussion be?

Supervisor: I’ll let you know.

In the end my time never came. Weeks, months, years came and went, and I could never plan enough, learn enough, network enough, do enough or BE enough!

It’s time for you to see the writing on the wall too. It’s time for you to build your own wall.

Protect yourself, love yourself, save yourself!

Lesson Learned

Creating boundaries protects your well-being, saves loads of energy and refocuses your effort.

When your boss (client, partner etc.) shows you who they are, or better who they THINK you are, believe them and hide your pearls (from swine) accordingly.

Pick Me Confession #4: Insincerity Always Breads Insecurity

At the beginning of 2021, I took an honest look at my 15+ years in the workforce. I was pregnant with my second child and writing about the setbacks and successes my career experienced with my first pregnancy.

A success came in the form of the realization of my privileges of having a supportive family, community resources and safe, healthy, affordable childcare. Not to mention coworkers and managers who were flexible and kind.

A setback came in the form of the mounting guilt for straddling the fence on issues that concerned my female colleagues.

You see as I tried hard to hide or diminish my family obligations I in turn put pressure on my coworkers to act in kind – unless they wanted to forfeit their so-called spot in line for advancement, and acknowledgement.

I’d even been called to task for appearing “fake”! I was vocally pro-work, and pro-management; devil’s advocate every chance I got! Yet when alone with my peers I would complain and run with the mood of the hour.

As the saying goes, if you stand for nothing you’ll fall for anything. A pick me falls for everything.

Lesson Learned

Real recognizes real, game recognizes game. Authenticity and trust go hand in hand.

Pick Me Confession #5: Putting Them First Meant I Would NEVER Win

If you are a competitive person, it can be challenging to let go of some of the very passionate emotions and behaviors that keep you on top of your game.

I’m one of the workoholics who always chase the high of an achievement. The next idea, the next caught mistake, the next big client keep me moving full speed to Over-achievement Station! Choo Choo!

That is until I had a year where I experienced an ectopic pregnancy and nearly died from internal bleeding, multiple family emergencies and back to back to back events, and work commitments. The train just never seemed to slow down.

But instead of being rewarded for my tenacity and ambition, I was placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP) and told that I quite literally was out of my lane! Ran straight into other people’s territory!

How could I not have been picked?! How did I miss the signs?!


Lesson Learned

Delaying your needs only hurts you. Self worth increases your net worth…I don’t make the rules.

Putting everyone first could lead to you running off course instead of running over the competition.

The road is wide enough for more than just you.

4 thoughts on “Confessions of an Office “Pick Me”: Mistakes & Lessons Learned

  1. I remember how I was so loyal and dutiful (ugh) to one employer thinking I’d advance quicker. But in reality all it did was convince them that I was “too good” at what I did in one (entry) level that they couldn’t possibly chance me doing anything else. Lesson learned! Pick me? Pick me? Never again!

  2. Excellent article Casey. Your article makes the career library look out dated. I look forward too the development of your strategy.

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