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Top 10 Ways to Survive 30 Years on the Job
(Part 3)

By: Christopher Popp
Director of Sales and Marketing
DieQua Corporation

These days it’s pretty unusual to hear about someone who has spent 30 years on the job. Oh, sure, once in a while you run across someone who has endured the marathon, but not often in an industrial or corporate setting. No, staying with one company is no longer all that common.

There are a number of reasons that make it difficult to hit that milestone. For one, companies have a tendency to come and go, whether because of financial reasons, the competitive effects of technology or due to mergers and acquisitions.

Another is that people just get tired of the old place. They have bosses they don’t like, don’t get the raises they feel they deserve, there is a wall in front of them that won’t allow them to climb the ladder, or they just get bored with it. And sometimes they get complacent and have the decision made for them.

It takes some special circumstances to get the opportunity to stick around for so long. In my case I got in on the ground floor of a start up. I was able to grow with it as it grew. Since it is still growing, opportunities remain. So it’s still a great place to be.

I’ve received a lot of feedback from the first two installments of this series, mostly positive. I’ve re-read what I wrote in the first two installments and still agree with most of it, although I may have tweeked a few things if I did it again. Splitting the story into segments gave me a chance to think about the message before writing the next chapter.

For the most part I focused mostly on ways to get ahead, create value, be influential and get noticed. But not everyone can move up the ladder. There has to be managers and workers at every station. Sometimes you hit a plateau and that’s ok. Being part of a team and making a positive impact at the level you reach can be considered success all by itself.

As a review, in Part 1 there was a count down from the #10 to #7 ways to survive 30 years on the job. They were:

#10 - Have something on the boss
#9 - Support your co-workers
#8 - Consider no job too small, or too big
#7 – Volunteer to travel if given the chance.

In Part 2 we continued the list by highlighting #6 down to #4. They were:

#6 - Speak up in meetings, but only if you know what you are talking about.
#5 – Be more valuable than what they pay you.
#4 – Know more than anyone else about your products or procedure

And now (drum roll, please), on to the final (thank god!) 3 ways to survive 30 years on the job.

#3 – Make decisions like you own the place

No, I’m not talking about the place where the owner spends more time on the golf course than in the office, unless that gives you the chance to run the place and he’s forever indebted (and pays you really well to keep things running smooth).

Seriously though, making decisions like you own the place is more about seeing the big picture than pretty much anything else. Oh, and being diligent and productive every day. Would you really slack off and take short cuts if it was your own dime on the line? Would you not consider all the alternatives if, say, a month’s pay was in the balance?

Perhaps one of the toughest plights is when going one way would be best for your own gain or better for your department, but it may not be in the overall best interest of the company. Especially if you know that’s the case, what do you do? All kinds of companies have individual incentives that could be considered counter-productive to other goals within the organization.

The fact is everything you do affects someone else. There are tons of graph, charts and reports that show how your actions affect your team, your department, other departments, the satisfaction of the customer base and ultimately, the financial health of the company. If you like the place and the people you work with you should take “ownership” in what happens. Make the best overall decision.

And it isn’t only because it’s the right thing to do. You will feel a part of something bigger, you will be more productive and engaged, the company will likely be marginally more successful, but most importantly you will feel greater job satisfaction. If you have to do it everyday, you might as well do it the best you can by considering the big picture.

#2 – Balance work and home life

Pretty much all the advice I’ve given to this point is about driving yourself to be the best you can be and creating as much value as possible. Certainly getting promoted and the pay that comes with it can allow you to afford some of the finer things life has to offer. But there can be some tremendous costs to a single minded approach.

Life is too short. Weeks go by. Months go by. The years pile up. And, as those of us who are a little older know, the clock keeps ticking faster and faster the farther along you go. Work is only one aspect of your time on this earth. There are so many other things that make for a rich life. Professional accomplishment should only be one of them.

In my opinion, a happy worker can be a more productive worker. In my opinion, a worker with a quality home life can be a more reliable worker. In my opinion, a culturally well-rounded worker can be a more creative worker. In my opinion, a worker with a lot of friends can be a better co-worker. In my opinion, a worker who likes learning and experiencing things can a more knowledgeable worker.

The fact is, being engaged in everyday life outside the job shouldn’t be detrimental to your career. On the contrary, it can enhance your career. It can give you a reason to work. It can refresh you so you can stay focused when its time. It can bring other perspectives to your decision making process. It can provide you increased levels of satisfaction in other areas you may be interested in. Did I already mention I think a happy worker is a more productive worker?

The bottom line on this topic is you should try to be the best you can be. But try to do it without sacrificing too much, on either end of the spectrum. Finding the balance is yet another of life’s challenges that should be embraced, not scorned.

#1 – Enjoy what you do

Ahhh, the Holy Grail! The journey we are all on. The pursuit of happiness. Nirvana. Unfortunately that is much easier said than done. However, I think achieving the enjoyment of what you do can be a matter of perspective. I think the key is finding your purpose. We all want to know there is a purpose for what we do.

I’m not delusional. Sometimes the job you have is not all peaches and cream. Sometimes it’s absolute crap for one reason or other. But what you make of it can go a long way on how you navigate each day and develop a certain level of satisfaction in what you do.

The reality is, every job has its negatives, with tasks that could be considered tedious, boring or just plain difficult. But every job has its purpose or it wouldn’t exist. Every job is important in one way or another. How you perceive your position and responsibilities and impact on the overall operation can alter your enjoyment and pride and satisfaction.

I’m reminded of the case study on how employees in a specific nursing home, one of the lowest paid and highest turnover industries, exhibited drastically higher levels of job satisfaction than other similar facilities. When a janitorial maintenance worker was asked why he liked his job it was because he was on the forefront of maintaining the cleanliness and safety of the facilities, which had a direct and significant impact on the well being of their customers.

That’s perspective. That’s finding purpose. That’s when realizing the job itself isn’t the issue but the impact that job has on the success of the enterprise. And if you do it to the best of your ability that by itself can be a reason for pride and satisfaction.

Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue an endeavor that better aligns your interests and skills. Or find opportunities that challenge you or down right pays better. Just realize that, as in everyday life, you are responsible for your own happiness. You are responsible for making the best of your situation. As the old saying goes, if you have lemons, make lemonade.

So, there you have it. These may not be the top 10 ways to survive 30 years on the job, or even just a few, but they are 10 ways. Thanks for indulging me. It was fun sharing some of my thoughts. While no earth shattering revelations were revealed here I do hope at least a couple tidbits got you thinking about how to deal with your own situation.

Life can be a strange experience, taking you places you never dreamed imaginable. That’s the challenge of it. That’s the beauty of it. Enjoy the ride!

05/2014

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