There are lots of lists out there describing what people consider to be the most important things to do in life. And these lists have lovely sentiments. Find love. Appreciate your family. Do something you are passionate about. I don’t disagree with any of that advice. Those are important things. But all those lists avoid […]
Many years ago, I was working for a government agency. I loved my job. I truly enjoyed my work and my colleagues. One day, my boss and I were chatting, and I told him how happy I was working for the agency. He said, “Meerabelle, don’t love this agency. The agency will not love you back.” That sounds cynical, but he was right.
Your employer isn’t going to love you. Back in the day, employers were loyal to their employees. But that is because back in the day, organizations were run by “leaders.” Organizations now are run by managers. There is a difference.
Manager move things along. They deal with numbers and statistics. They are solely concerned with their own advancement. And they treat their employees like widgets. From their point of view, employees are interchangeable. If you leave the job, no worries! You can be replaced tomorrow by someone who will do exactly what you did. That is the “manager’s approach.”
Leaders are different. They want to develop a team of top-notch individuals. They groom and mentor others to be the best at their jobs. They are coaches, and their goal, like any good coach, is to have their employees succeed. Because if each employee is doing his or her best, then the team as a whole is operating at the highest level.
Today, true leaders are few and far between. I have been in the workforce for over 25 years, and during that time I only have worked for two leaders. The rest have been managers. The rest have been people who were solely concerned with when they will get their next promotion. They have been people who are quick to tell you what is not their responsibility.
If you are a leader, the buck stops with you. If you are a manager, the buck stops with whichever employee you can throw under the bus to save your tail. We unfortunately live in a world replete with managers.
So, the environment in which we currently work has changed. We can bemoan the lack of true leaders in business and government, but that is a waste of time. It is what it is.
As a result, if you want to be happy professionally, don’t love your job. Love your career. Love what you do. Because your employer most likely will not love you back.
What does that mean as a practical matter? That means find the best workplace to do what you love. For instance, if you love selling clothes, find a store that sells clothes that you think are gorgeous. If you are a chef, find a restaurant to work at which has a menu and ambience that you admire. Work in the place that allows you to best pursue your chosen career.
And if your employer doesn’t appreciate you, don’t shed big, sloppy tears. You aren’t working for the employer. You are working for you. The employer just pays your check. You are working for the satisfaction of pursuing your career and doing what you love.
So, get as much as you can out of an employer, financially and experience-wise. And then when the job no longer fulfills either requirement – you are paid too little or you aren’t challenged –start looking for something else. Don’t stagnate in a bad job out of loyalty to an employer who is not going to be loyal to you.
Admittedly, I say all this with regret. I am someone who would have loved to work for the same employer for my entire career. My parents did so, but they were in academia, and universities are not your typical employer.
Having over two decades in the workforce has shown me that employers are not loyal to their employees. For instance, I once was laid off from a job because they decided to eliminate my position to cut costs. I had another job in which they laid me off on a Friday, and then they rehired me the following Monday. I have had my hours cut in half, and then a month later the employer asked me to resume working fulltime. My experiences, unfortunately, are not unusual. The chaos that employers recklessly inflict on their employees today is shocking.
So, I no longer hold the fantasy of working for the same employer for 40 years, and then having a beautiful retirement party. That has not been the trajectory of my career, and it unlikely will be the trajectory of yours.
We have entered a new age in which employers do solely what serves their business interests. Employees should do the same. And that means love your career. Not your job. And certainly not your employer.
Use each job to propel you to the next opportunity. The purpose of your job isn’t simply to work for the employer. It is to use the employer to get the experience you want and the money you deserve. And then once you have gotten everything you can out of a job, it is time to find a new job with a higher position.
That may all sound very Machiavellian. But we give a lot of time, effort and brain power to our jobs. In my jobs, I always have given 110%. However, at the end of the day, from the point of view of the employers, I have been a widget. I don’t blame my employers. That is the nature of our new work environment.
So, love your career. Find something that you truly enjoy doing and that inspires you to get up in the morning with enthusiasm. And then take jobs that allow you to pursue your career and use them to advance as far as possible.
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