At Apex we decided to look at how one’s Best Day at work changes over time. Everyone’s needs are slightly different, but we were interested in how age and life-cycle accounted for the differences. So we have decided to share two stories: one from a 24 year old, freshly graduated intern and one from a 46 year old grizzled vet. Please take a look and let us know your thoughts on the topic.
Making Every Day a Best Day at Work
I am 24 years old, fresh out of college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology. I chose to take a break after college to get some applicable work experience before applying to Master’s programs. After settling for an administrative position in a financing and accounting department, I began to realize just how hard it was to get a job with a Bachelor’s in Psychology.
After almost 2 years at a job I had no passion for, and had nothing to do with I/O Psychology, I received a job posting for an Organizational Development Intern at a local consulting firm. I was thrilled when I saw the advertisement and thought to myself, “this seems almost too good to be true." Finally, a job that was exactly what I had been searching for and better yet, a job that I was qualified for. I can honestly say that one of my overall best days, was when I got hired for the position! As someone who is just starting out in their career (1 month into my new role), my best day at work entails these aspects:
MAKING A VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION
Starting a new job is always nerve wracking and when the time came that I finally found a job that would be the start of my career, the anxiety and enthusiasm was at an all-time high. I remember walking into my first day feeling incredibly nervous because I was hoping I wouldn’t blow it. I may have been nervous but I knew I had to act and feel confident as well. After all, this is what I had studied in school and it was finally time to put all the knowledge I had gained into play. By the end of the day my bosses were impressed at how much input I was able to provide on my first assignment. Making a valuable contribution to each and every assignment, small or large, is always key to having my best day at work.
As I mentioned above, my bosses expressed their feelings of being impressed by how much of a contribution I was able to make being such a new employee. Feedback is a vital piece of information that I believe employees at almost every level in their career need in order to maintain a high sense of job satisfaction. For someone like me, it is even more essential to have consistent feedback, whether it is positive or constructive, it always helps me get through my day. Since I am just starting out in my career, I often have the feeling of “I have no idea whether I am doing a good job or not," because everything is so new to me. Fortunately, working with consultants who have degrees in I/O psychology means that I am consistently aware of how I am doing on projects because they know the value and importance of feedback. Of course, getting positive feedback is the type of feedback that really fuels my passion and contributes to my best day at work.
OPPORTUNITY FOR DEVELOPMENT
I am constantly looking for opportunities for development in my life. I am like a sponge absorbing all I learn from my bosses and accept every opportunity to learn new things. Every time I get a new assignment, I see it as a new skill that I can put on my resume and help me grow as a professional. I am happy when I get an assignment that requires me to do something I have experience with, because it is familiar and I know I can succeed. On the other hand though, comfortable and easy isn’t what is going to get me to the next step in my career. It is the unfamiliar, new and complex tasks that I encounter that will make me a more diverse and competitive resource to my bosses and industry.
Some people prefer to keep their personal and professional lives completely separate but for me that isn’t the case. I really like to get to know the people I am working with on a personal level. My sense of pride and commitment to the organization is going to be much higher in an organization where I have built friendships with my coworkers and bosses. In addition to building relationships with people I work with, I am also very interested in networking with every new client that I meet. I think we can all agree that networking is essential, especially as a young professional just starting out in my career. I’ll never know where this path will take me but I’d like to meet and know as many people as I can on the way. Building and maintaining interpersonal relationships sets the stage for fulfillment at work because if I enjoy what I do, and who I do it with, then it will help make every day the best day for me.
My Worst Day is Better than Many People’s Best
-Dale Harris, Ph.D.
I am a very lucky man! At 46 I do work that I believe in, with people I care about (both clients and consultants), and it supports my family and the families of others. The old-adage “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life,” is so [almost] true for me. I only say “almost” because I am in the office writing this on a Sunday morning rather than playing with my kids, so sometimes it is still work after all.
As a consultant and coach, I find that my personal experiences usually serve as the biggest inspiration for the learnings I share with my clients. I am after all, what I know best. So, when I discuss work-life balance or career satisfaction I look at what matters to me and how I have gone about constructing a happy and fulfilled professional life, which enables a contented personal life as well.
What motivates us and makes us happy changes over time, based on maturity and many other factors in our life cycle. I am a: married man, father of 2 young children, and a consultant of almost 20 years with a 15-year-old consulting firm. My best day looks very different today than when I first began my career back in 1996. As I look at myself today, these are the things that lead to me having the best day ever.
FREEDOM AND FLEXIBILITY
This has always been important to me, but even more so now, as I try my best to be a super-involved dad. It is critical for someone like me to have the autonomy to control my own calendar and the flexibility to adjust it to accommodate competing needs that arise daily. Where this was a nice to have, when I was younger, my family makes it a must today. Of all things I am grateful for, this may be the number one link to happiness in both my personal and professional lives.
I chose the career I did, because I have always loved doing this “development thing.” It is who I am professionally, but also who I have always been to my friends and family. At this stage in life, I find I am doing this more and more. It used to be almost exclusively with my clients, but now I find myself doing it with people who work for me and my children as well. I find that it is even more rewarding watching the people closest to me develop over a longer period; rather than a 6-12-month coaching engagement which time limits to only so much development being possible. I am grateful to have expanded my development focus beyond only my clients.
WORKING THROUGH OTHERS
I was so excited when I got my first coaching client and the first time I coached a C-suite Executive. I still am incredibly passionate about this work and am better now than I have ever been. But if I am honest, I feel even more proud and excited watching junior people on my team accomplish these milestones for the first time. I love coaching them and seeing their confidence and skills grow as they accomplish things in their career. This is exactly how I feel as a father as well, watching my children thrive. I find myself actually “doing” less than I use to, as I now teach and watch those teachings grow into action through others. Getting work done through others can be difficult and more time consuming, but it is beyond rewarding!
CREATING A LEGACY
At 46, legacy is what it is all about for me. I realize that I am more about the future I am building through and with others now. A future that I may not even be around to see. My children will grow up and individuals on my professional team will move on to chart their own future(s). I find tremendous fulfillment in knowing that pieces of me can be out there in the world, growing in their own unique ways. In the past I took a more transactional approach, with shorter term personal goals for myself; now I look out further hoping to see others that I have touched achieving goals that I have never dreamed of myself.
What is in your best day? How has your best day changed over your life? Or if you are just starting out, how do you think your perspective will change over time?