Given the way things ended, am I sorry that I once had a career, rather than a job?
Not at all.
And please don't say, "teachable moment", Oprah. I hate that phrase! First of all, it would be more correct to say "learned moment", but even that would be false.
Life lessons are not learned in "moments".
Many years have passed since those career days, and with lots of time, age, and distance, I am able to own certain truths and discard the fallacies.
Here is my list of corporate life lessons:
- First, just put your head down and work. Career advancement doesn't come easily, and sometimes it doesn't come at all, but for people who are authentic (like you and me), kissing butt isn't going to work for us. We have to show them that we can do the job, whatever that entails. And that we are willing to do the job.
- Sometimes, someone comes along who recognizes your value. Often, you won't even realize that this person is observing you. Don't waste time worrying about it. That person may or may not even exist in your corporate culture, and if he or she does, you have no control over their opinions. But sometimes, just sometimes, somebody notices something.
- If you need your job, and most of us do, you might have to swallow your pride sometimes. If your boss is an arrogant, narcissistic jerk, you may just have to appease him or her, even though every fiber of your being is screaming in pain, and even though your jaw is mightily sore from all the teeth gnashing.
- If you have been granted authority over others, treat them right. It seems so simple, and yet, so many managers can't grasp the concept. Before you interact with someone in your charge, ask yourself, how would I like to be approached? Approach them like that. Nobody would treat themselves as shabbily as some managers treat their employees. People are not automatons; they're people.
- If you catch somebody doing something right, or well, or above expectations, tell them! Do you want to be recognized? Of course you do. So does everybody else.
- Be inclusive. Let people know that you value their opinions, and that you want their feedback. Don't just mouth the words. Mean them.
- Jealousy is rampant in the corporate world. Those who can't, envy the ones who can. And they will snipe at you behind your back. Accept that it happens. But don't waste time trying to appease them. As long as you obtained your position through legitimate means, you have nothing to apologize or feel bad for.
- Always, always do your best. The (invisible) contract that you signed with your employer comes with certain expectations. The number one expectation is that you will do your job, and they will pay you for doing it. Knock whatever chip you may have on your shoulder right off, and understand that you work for them; they don't work for you.
- Everybody; I mean, everybody, is expendable. Sure, the person who takes over for you might not do things exactly the same way you did them, but the things are still going to get done. If you are aware of your expendability, you just might adjust your outlook.
- There is no such thing as corporate loyalty. It's a business. Things happen; circumstances change. Your vice president is not your mommy. Sure, they might feel bad for a day when they have to lay you off. But they will quickly get over it. Everybody on the corporate ladder is only looking out for their own jobs. They're insecure. They will do whatever they need to do to stay employed. They may not even agree with what they have to do, but they'll still do it.
- Your job is not your life. Your job is your job. Treat it with the respect that it demands, but have a life! Turn off the company button when you go home at 5:00. Don't live for your job, because your job just might disappear tomorrow. Nobody is maintaining a spreadsheet, marking the hours that you spend at home obsessing over your job. Don't give every waking moment over to your company. They really don't care, and meanwhile, you have missed out on your life.
- If there are certain injustices that you just can't seem to let go, at least learn from them. Today, thirteen years after the fact, the one grudge that I still hold is that Peter never gave me the title of "manager", and yet, he bestowed it upon the one person who I knew was a mere grunt; a woman who was lucky to even hold a job in any capacity. A person for whom I had to steel my patience to tutor over and over and over again. And she hadn't earned it. It was just given to her. It was a slap in the face to me.
- So, what did I learn from this? Well, I learned that life is rarely fair. I learned that sometimes things happen the way they happen. I can choose to let those things cloud my life, or I can realize that my life has value, apart from the titles and the kudos.
- The other thing I learned? Well, I don't know if I learned it, or if I always knew it. It's simple, but life lessons often are.
- I learned, trust in yourself.