“Hardening Off” a Career

seedlings meet the sun
seedlings meet the sun

For seed sprouted indoors, all growing conditions were perfect. There was no wind to oppose the young plant and the soil was a perfect mixture created to encourage and optimize root system development. To continue development, however, the plant must be able to thrive outdoors. So, after we are convinced that Jack Frost really is gone for the season, we take the seedlings begun in the basement out into the sun. In my very first gardening season, I remember how disappointed I was seeing the plants I so carefully pampered bowed down in a fainting wilt. However, I discovered from reading a few gardening magazines that there was no cause for despair. Within the week, those drooping stems got strong enough to stand upright in the spring breeze and the leaves joyfully reached for the sun.

New careers are like that too. A new practitioner in any profession, no matter the chronological age, will droop in those first days in the sun of real-world working conditions. New hires will come home energy depleted. Children may cry after the first day of school. There will be missteps, mistakes, embarrassing moments and missed opportunities. All of it is part and parcel of professional and personal development. Beginners are beginners whether babies or mature adults and all beginners must take on the deeper work of spring: developing enough emotional and physical muscle equal to opposing gravity and winds to be able to stand up and grow.

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