Your First Real Job

Our grown up children are becoming less dependent on our parenting. In fairness that little transition started on their seventh birthday, but we all pretended we were very important in the decisions our offspring made, even when our consultation conversations had diminished significantly over time.  By diminished I mean you discovered what your teenage children were up to, through casual conversations with the neighbours.

The school years of our young adults are finally finished. Resumes capturing the McDonalds shifts and unremarkable summer jobs are now being submitted to unsuspecting HR departments in every building in the province that has more than two floors.

First real jobs are being acquired at a slow pace, and young adults are starting to contemplate their role and future behaviour, to ensure regular pay is automatically deposited in the menial bank account that is currently burdened with unpaid student loans.

So how is one to prosper in this techno reliant, new business environment? The truth is I do not have a clue. The rapid change of old to new business practices seems to occur hourly. My antiquated understanding of what was a reliable business model has made me rather unqualified to help today’s budding career conscious executive bound employees. Recent performance reviews that highlight my inability to adapt to change are well documented in HR filing cabinets. Fortunately for you, people’s opinion of me has never stopped me from offering my opinion.

I will offer one suggestion that might help to shape your future. An idea I wished someone had given to me so many years ago, when I began my relatively successful career in a much different business world.  This advice would have saved me a few sleepless nights as I struggled with the work.

Write your retirement speech now!

Yes, in your cubicle, at your work station, on the loading dock or if you are very fortunate, in your company car start writing now. Grab a pencil (you will make a mistake or two) a piece of paper, the back side of your company’s policy and procedure document will suffice, and write that speech you will orate many years from now.

Start writing this immediately. Write what you will acknowledge forty years from now, and emphasize the things you are going to remember from years of answering to “the man”. Regardless of the employment you have secured, where your company is drastically underpaying you for your entry level position. Start writing. This should only take about an hour. This little exercise will help you to start thinking about things far beyond the next quarter of business. You may even be labeled as a visionary, which will help you down the road, when you apply for the CEO job, that your are currently convinced is the role best suited for your knowledge and skills.

If this idea is too crazy to even consider, as you secretly ridicule every policy your organization has thrust upon you, allow me to coax you a little:

“Ladies and Gentleman, honoured guests and family. It is hard to believe that my work life has come to an abrupt end. I am struggling with feelings of both sadness and relief as I share my random thoughts on the subject of the end of a career. I now truly understand the word eternity. 

I am now more than aware, that people took a significant risk in just hiring me.  I was under qualified, and a little too confident however some one saw something in me and took a chance.  A chance that allowed me to be more than a graduate with potential.

I want to sincerely thank the manager who gave me the bad news that I did not get the promotion. I want acknowledge that my reaction of “ It was a political decision, the company doesn’t know what they are doing!” and other self created conspiracy theories, were simply sour grapes. The best person did get the job and I learned that once I worked for that wonderful individual.

I want to thank the many presidents I have worked with. They all had their strengths to help drive our mutual success. The ones I want to thank the most are those leaders who took the time to chat on busy days, and made me feel, I was the most important employee in the building. Not every leader has been inspirational, but I even thank those less qualified people who tried to inspire, because you taught me very valuable lessons on what not to do, and for those painful experiences I must thank you as those memories are as substantial as the good ones.

I will remember all of the work, all the projects, all the deadlines, all the late nights and early morning meetings. I will remember the proposals we lost to a better competitor, and the disappointments of well-done work that led to unsuccessful outcomes. I will remember leading or contributing to important projects that sustained company growth. I will remember preparing for performance reviews that occasionally prompted significant raises and bonus. 

But enough about the work, as the work was important, but in reality, it is what I will remember the least, when I am drinking my Pina Colodas with those fancy umbrellas, sitting on my Muskoka chair, somewhere far away from here. I did feel compelled to mention my work, as my boss is sitting in the second row here, and I wanted a reasonable rating for my final performance review this year.

It is and always will be the people I worked with that I will remember fondly. You have effected me, changed me for the better and simply inspired me daily to be a better person. Most of you do not realize the subtle impact you had on me with just a simple thank you, acknowledgement or even the occasion piece of constructive feedback that exposed blind spots and my human deficiencies. 

Some of those people are in this room right now, but many are not as downsizing, better career opportunities or sadly, health issues have taken you away from me.

 Each of you populate an important place in my memory, that is indelibly stamped with tattoo like permanency. I will protect those cherished thoughts long after the important understanding of quality control and compliance protocols have vanished. I will just smile when I think of your name. 

I want to thank you all for the gift of your friendship. You may have labeled me as colleague, an acquaintance, and maybe a friend. I only hope I made some small contribution to your life, though I suspect it is dwarfed considerably, when compared to the contribution you have made to who I am today. 

Finally the last words are to my family. A family who kind of knew what I did for a living but my gratitude for your support, understanding and tolerance was never truly expressed. I was just too busy working.  My words will never capture my feelings and devotion to you, so I will stop and just say thank you for undeserved support and understanding one more time.

 Thank you all, the pleasure was truly mine”

So that is it. A poor sample, of what I am asking you to do. Remember my intent was to coax, not to write your bloody speech. As you sit there annoyed by my request, think hard of what is going to be important to you and put extra energy into making time for those things that matter.

After you write this speech, read it to yourself once in a while, to help remind you of where you are going versus where you thought you were going. Write this before your head gets clouded with superior business acumen, well-learned cynicism and waning appreciation of your endless possibilities. If you can keep a little of your current enthusiasm along the way, you will outperform most of your colleagues.

I promise you if you take a little time to view into your future, your second day at work will be significantly better than your first day.




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