Leaving a good job at a Fortune 100 company in your early 30s (with 4 little kids at home) is a little… ahem, stressful. But looking back some 22 years, there are purposeful steps as well as seemingly random events that combine to produce a productive, satisfying career. And while your life ambitions are your own, here are some things I’ve learned that could help you while keeping stress in check as you build success.
- Do what you love. This oft-repeated phrase sounds trite, but it really is the most important thing. You’re going to spend nearly half your waking life earning a living; shouldn’t it be something that really gets your juices going? If you don’t love it, start working on a way to get out today. It might be as simple as changing jobs inside the organization or the industry, or it might mean completely reversing course. But waiting for something wonderful to happen in the absence of action guarantees you’ll remain unfulfilled at work.
- Give more, ask for less. It’s a strange paradox, but in almost all instances the way to get more is to give more — of your time, talents, energy, insight, empathy. From time to time, someone will take advantage of a giving nature. That’s okay; just roll with it. While you can find examples of highly rewarded takers, the givers I’ve known are not only successful, but they’re happier and healthier.
- Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Surround yourself with really smart, insightful people and listen carefully to what they have to say. And even if you think you might be the smartest person in the room, listen more than speak. You learn a lot more that way.
- Network like it’s your job (because it is). Networking has gotten a bad rap over the years, and it can be particularly unproductive if your definition is amassing the most LinkedIn connections. But if your associations with talented people in the field and organization are to offer your time and expertise rather than just to schmooze, opportunities have a way of landing in your lap. We reap the rewards of relationships today that started more than 2 decades ago.
- Get outside of wellness, both at work and in the community. To maintain freshness and perspective, be deeply involved in projects and causes that have nothing to do with your day job. You’ll be surprised how those experiences often come back to help you at work.
- Volunteer to lead. Whether in the community or at work, raise your hand to head up a project or committee. Aim to be a little uncomfortable from time to time to be sure you’re expanding your skills and growing. While it’s not a guaranteed path to greater responsibility, if you build a reputation as someone who can lead effectively — even a modest endeavor — it helps position you for the next career step.
- Be open to serendipity. Some of our biggest wins at Health Enhancement Systems have been largely unplanned. Or at least they weren’t our first idea. By keeping your head up, learning from both successes and failures, and just being observant of what’s going on in the world you’ve a good chance of hitting on the next great wellness initiative.