01 May 2023

Calling All Self-Starters and Late Bloomers in the Class of 2023

"Hard work spotlights people's character: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."

--Samuel J. Ewing

(C) Admissionly.com

Whether to work from home, office or hybrid is a much-posed question by employers and employees. But, unfortunately, it's out of sequence. 

Steve Rattner writes, "The notion of flexible work is a form of white-collar privilege. Those who labor in factories, restaurants, or stores don't have the luxury of working from home."

Where to work is also the wrong question, at least initially. How to work and what kind are far more important inquiries. They are preferable to one about location.  

The idea of work begins with a sense of purpose and calling, not just employment. And it's in that province where identity becomes established. 

Here are four wells of thought that contribute to a deliberative response to calling and career:

Knowing who you are.

"People, by and large, become what they think of themselves," said American psychologist and philosopher William James. He rejected genetics (Sigmund Freud) and environment (Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner). Instead, James believed that we are a product of free will. We all have the option and ability to choose and control our thoughts. 

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." 

Dr. John Eliot says that every morning we have a choice to make. "We can either fill our minds with negative or positive thoughts--whichever ones we consistently choose determine how successful we will be in life."  

Like Mount Rushmore, those good and bad choices sculpt our beliefs, values, trustworthiness, and moral character--revealing who we are. Aristotle said, "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."

Taking personal responsibility in today's culture stands out like a lantern in a darkened room. Therefore, holding yourself accountable for your actions, and exercising self-control, is an attractive quality for anyone looking to hire. 

Regardless of frustrations and disappointments, which are always with us, we must believe and act anyway.

Work is learned.

Here are four declarations to consider:

  • First, a work ethic is a unique set of values determining how employees approach their work.
  • Employees with strong work ethics are highly motivated and produce high-quality work.
  • A good work ethic can be taught (learned) through productive behaviors. Employees like these exhibit model behavior for others to emulate. 
  • The benefits are increased productivity and a respectable workplace. (Personio.com) 

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal described how employers, fed up with late arrivals and mobile phone distractions, are hiring older people. As a result, those over 55 are the fastest-growing segment of the workplace. 

Three-quarters of people 65 and older said that hard work is vital to them personally. Among 18-29-year-olds, 61% said hard work is very important. (The Wall Street Journal-NORC Survey)

"Managers and recruiters say that remote work made it tough for some young workers to find mentors and learn professional norms in the office," observes Julia Lamm, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "As a result, many of these young workers struggle with resourcefulness, professional networking, and communications with clients and c0-workers,"  Lamm concludes. 

Nevertheless, despite the negative attention, Gen Z workers are making their presence known with ingenuity and hustle. Some are starting businesses and working long hours to make them go. These entrepreneurs are an encouraging look into the future.

Here's a small but valuable piece of practical advice shared with me: Learn to do one job that nobody can or wants to do but is important to the organization's success. 

Getting the right experiences.

Personal and professional development comes from experience (70%) and forms of learning such as seminars, reading, observation, and feedback. (30%). Not just any kind of experience will do. It must be the right kind coupled with takeaways from those experiences--which don't always show up immediately. 

Development requires insight from positive and negative encounters to get the most out of them. Something from those bumps on the head should make the pain worthwhile. And it's less costly to learn from someone else's mistakes. So take advantage. 

How to get a good experience? Start something. Fix or turn around something. Enlarge your responsibility. Take on special projects. Learn to endure hardships. (Center for Creative Leadership)

Consider serving on an in-person task force early in your career, even if it's outside your professional interests. Benefit from individuals who know when and how to speak, process, sit at a table, dress appropriately, and interact with colleagues. Regrettably, some participants are notable for the wrong reasons. Learn from them, too.

An ad hoc opportunity such as this is like getting an advanced emotional and social skills degree without the tuition.  

The contours of a successful life.

A tip for taking better pictures from a distance is not to zoom in, as it makes the photo grainy or blurry. There's no need to zoom in too soon. If it's safe, better to get closer to the subject to avoid compromising quality. The same holds true for envisioning one's life.

Over time, the contours of success come into focus through proximity to the right circumstances and engaging in healthy mental and physical practices. In addition, international travel for business or pleasure expands your horizons as cross-cultural knowledge is invaluable.  

You are rich if one person of integrity, humility, and sound judgment enters your life and stays there long enough to make a difference, often by listening and asking questions. All to assist in becoming more self-aware. Quoting Leonardo da Vinci, "The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions." 

A sensible definition of personal success comes from Marcus Buckingham, who wrote, "Success is not about money, title, or recognition. Instead, success is the ability to make and sustain a significant contribution."

Think about it. 

Regardless of the starting point--with self-knowledge, hard work, pacing, and a few breaks-- fulfillment is achievable no matter where you serve.  


©  Bredholt & Co.