Live Long and Prosper!
Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s 10 Commandments
for a Long and Happy Career
Work is a wonderful dimension for personal growth as well as a necessity to pay your bills. It can provide you with a venue to work out personal issues as well as simply providing a means to pay the rent. But as the comedian’s old stand-by goes something like this: I met a guy the other day who said he hated his job. So I told him, “If it wasn’t work, they wouldn’t pay you would they?!
What’s the moral here? That you can never be happy in your job? That you’re doomed to decades of misery on the gerbil wheel, slaving away to pay off the mortgage and your child’s braces? No! Let me repeat, No!, NO!, NO! But it takes paying attention to both how you live your day-to-day, and your year-to-year.
Here’s some tips on how to do it. Read them now and once a year on the anniversary of your hiring date. If the advice starts to feel too different from your life, see what’s gone off track.
Commandment No. 1: Choose your career and jobs wisely.
We all work for the money, whether it’s a big paycheck or a small one. But there’s lots of other non-monetary benefits to working, from being productive to social connections to keeping sharp and useful. Goal one: enjoy what you do for a living. Strive to spend your days doing something you genuinely love. But if that’s not possible, aim for jobs that optimize your strengths and also keep challenging you. Any day you wake up dreading the idea of going into the office is the right time to update your resume and start looking for new opportunities. Ask yourself regularly, Is this what I want to do with my time? If you say No too often it is time to take action.
Commandment No. 2: Keep challenging yourself.
That means everything from pushing for new tasks and responsibilities in the job you have to going to school to prepare for the next and better one. Invest in brain training and learning. Read; study; get on the computer. Pursue knowledge in every form, even once your newest employee agreement is gathering dust in your file. Keep your mind facile and active so it’ll be there when you need it to get a promotion, a raise, or your next job. Learning also allows you to demonstrate what you know in ways that can enhance your professional reputation.
Commandment No. 3: Network, network, network.
The first thing anyone in a new sales job is asked to do is to make a list of everyone they know. The criterion is often this: if you cannot identify 200 names, you probably don’t have the network or social temperament to sell. Allies are important in every career. Not just as a person to open their wallet and buy your product, but also as a network to help you move up in your company or to forward your resume when you’re looking for a better job. They’ll be there for you in the long run, as you will be there for them. Look for folks to network with at all points in the corporate food chain, both mentors t you and folks you can mentor. You never know who’ll be in a position to help you down the line.
Commandment No. 4: Help others.
Help when you’re asked, even if it takes you out of your way or takes time you’re not sure you have. Some of what you’ll remember best over the course of your career aren’t the easy or happy times. They may be the crises when you had to make tough decisions, when you had an opportunity to step up, help out, and give much more than you may think you are able. Share what you know easily and eagerly. Not as a buttinski show-off to show folks up, but as a competent expert on whatever you’re good at, ready to make your whole team look good and be successful.
Commandment No. 5: Avoid getting entangled in office politics.
Don’t gossip. That means don’t gossip about either yourself or others. Protect your reputation and your privacy. You’ll want a non-work life that’s really separate. That goes for access to your online profiles too. Consider layers of privacy screens. Remember that people love to remind folks later about exactly what you’d most prefer be forgotten. In office dealings, especially if there’s nasty relationships where you feel you have to choose as side: don’t! Be the person everyone likes and trusts. Tell folks what you feel, even if it’s awkward. But take care before you speak ill of others. Don’t let disagreements linger too long lest they erode your working relationships and turn someone from a bad colleague into your personal nemesis.
Commandment No. 6: Negotiate wisely and firmly.
Become the person that bosses will be willing to pay to have on their staff. That means not just high self-esteem based in your ego but confidence grounded in performance. Be able to point to your achievements, your talents, your skills, and your revenue-generating history and potential. Avoid being low-balled at the front door of hiring; every extra dollar you can get starting Day 1 will multiply over time. Keep tabs on the market for your job so you know what other places will pay for someone of your caliber. When someone compliments your job, ask him or her to send a note to your boss or to HR. Be sure to have documented annual performance reviews and good letters of reference current and on file. They’ll pay off over time.
Commandment No. 7: Stay flexible.
Control freaks are often frustrated by the world. You can’t control everything, and you shouldn’t want to. Take your lumps when they come and learn how to bounce. Life’s full of knuckleheads and knuckleballs. No one’s immune or exempt. When you think people are out to thwart you, take the time to look at it from their point of view. (This might take a beer, a buddy, or both.) Think about each problem like a big glittery disco ball with a thousand facets: you can press on any one of them to change how things will happen. Think carefully and strategically before you commit yourself completely to any one approach. There’s lots of ways to get where you want to go. Make your own good luck; then be willing to share it.
Commandment No. 8: Take good care of your health.
We weren’t meant to live at desks, at computers, or with electronic devices in our hands. Being more physically fit helps your attention span as much as your muscles. Smart eating and regular exercise will enable you to enjoy life longer and more happily than if you end up a bloated coach potato. Plus you never know who’s on the next treadmill. Gyms, golf courses, and yoga classes are great places to network. Knowing a great hideaway restaurant with trendy food, or the best place to get your favorite drink is a wonderful excuse to invite someone with whom you want a special convo. Like it or not, people pay attention to how you look and what you put in your face. Make your choices worthy of respect.
Commandment No. 9: Do an annual career check-in and tune up.
Once a year, make a list of where you want to be 365 days later. Then measure where you are against those goals. You should consider everything from cash income to job title, responsibilities, upside promotion potential, and positioning to learn new skills. If you feel like there’s no way to move forward, ask for more training, responsibilities, or opportunities in some form that will allow higher-ups to notice you. Don’t let yourself get stuck or stale. Time moves fast and the older your get the easier it is to get pigeonholed. Keep your long-run vision sharp and don’t be afraid of making changes if that’s what it takes to create new possibilities.
Commandment No. 10: Choose to be happy.
Life’s too short to be miserable or to make things more complicated than you need to. We live in a world of marvelous surprises. It’s good to have goals, and to plan to manifest them. But don’t go through life with blinders or mono-vision. If you do, you’ll miss a lot of what the universe has to offer. Leave room and time for good things to happen that you might not have the imagination to predict or ask for.
You may never have a career that brings you a Nobel Prize or an Oscar for lifetime achievement. You may never even have your dream job. But you can make your Monday-Fridays 9-5, or your night or swing shifts, a time of fulfillment as well as remunerative productivity. Go for it!!