“To Everything There is A Season”.
My mother’s kitchen garden taught me the lessons about life I learned best and that mean the most to me.Best of all I loved the tomatoes and the roses. In those days, the relationship between mind, body and spirit was harmonious and emotionally entwined with the earth. Entry into the educational system introduced disharmony but the garden, especially the roses, kept me internally bound together. Fascinated with roses, I grew various cultivars whenever my family made home. Roses symbolized permanence in a decidedly mobile lifestyle.
I am a “job gypsy”. Business folk call this “job hopping”. I have gained and lost employment over 8 times over a lifetime. One of the first things I noticed that would happen whenever I lost a job was a loss of time sense. Days seemed to run into each other without definition of the day or hours in the day.Being a history lover and a teller of tales, as well as a lover of gardening, I began to pin my sense of timing to the natural seasons of the year in the manner of the ancient Celts instead of relating my personal timing to the academic year or to the business work day cycle.
The earth’s seasons move in predictable cycles from winter to autumn as the ancient Celts reckoned the year. Life progresses similarly in predictable, cyclical seasons from pre-birth to death. Here it is: just as there is specific work that must be done in each season of the earth, there is specific work to be done in each season of a human lifetime. Gail Sheehy in her book, “Passages” introduced us to that decades ago. Then, within the circle of a lifetime are many other “cycles”; the career cycle being the most pronounced. A career has seasons from pre-hire to exit and each job in that career progresses through its own seasons from the first day of employ to the end of employ. Between each season is a transition.
Every season of a career has a task associated with it. The year begins in darkness, emerges into the light and fades back into the darkness. Seeds are dropped into the soil and covered in darkness to develop. They emerge into the sunlight then come to leaf, flower and fruit. They are harvested and what remains falls back into the darkness to nourish the soil. Human beings are formed in chaotic darkness, emerge into the light of being alive then return to (as we see it from our perspective) the mysterious darkness.
Career winter is the time of non-employment but not a time of non-activity. It is the time of harvesting the winter crop; keeping the tools sharp (Dr. Stephen Covey taught us that in his revered work, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. See, habit #7’sharpen the saw’). Winter is for taking stock of the entire past growing season, envisioning the new garden of the year ahead, designing and planning the seed beds, and determining what seed, where and when it will be planted.
Spring time in a career or a job is the time of the new hire, especially the first 90 days. This is the time to start some seeds indoors–keeping a new employee under the care of a veteran staffer while the adjustment to the corporate culture is forming and expected behavior is learned. This is also the time of clearing the winter kill of a job or situation just exited. For example, what remains of being a student or negative feelings related to leaving the last job. This is understanding the nature of the land, amending the career soil and making the land ready to be planted. This is where the beds are laid out in order, the seeds are planted and the “hardening off of the young plants” happens or when a new hire is at last allowed to conduct projects autonoumously. This is also the time of the early starters–the idea seeds that have been allowed to “winter over” in a protected place will be set out into the open air for the first time. Think of new graduates in the early days of the very first professional position.
Career summer includes an employee’s first year to mid-career. This is the over-the-top growth and expansion time requiring the most weeding feeding and tending; the most productive time of a career. Tracking growth, repotting or transplanting–changing positions within and out of the company when appropriate happens in the summer. This means reflecting and reviewing a career position at specific intevals; executing career management moves including making strategic job changes at the correct time.
The autumn of a career is recognizable as a chill comes over a worker who no longer has that summertime passion for a position. There is boredom. There is a longing to move on. This is the season of decision; a season totally dedicated to transition. These are the days of harvesting the fruit of a career or a job in preparation for the next move. It is a naturally tense season because it is here that workers begin to “look around” feeling a tingle of dissatisfaction at work. The leaves fall and reveal the real structures of trees. The leaves fall in a career and a worker’s real strengths reveal themselves in unmistakable ways. The leaves fall in a company’s life and whatever was hidden becomes plain as it changes under new management or goes into a state of no growth/slow growth.