How do you know it’s mid-summer, June 21, in a career? How do you know it is Solstice?
Favor at work with supervisors and coworkers
Vibrant green finances: good salary, great perks, and fantastic benefits
Status symbols: cars, jewelry, season tickets to exclusive events
High regard as a producer: awards, plaques, honors, trophies and trips
High regard as a citizen in the community: owner of “ground beneath my bed”, leader of the “movers and shakers”, busy and constantly sought out
Enough to eat and to provide to others
Popularity: business in a growth phase, relationships/networks deep and wide
“All is well” in the soul
These are some of the manifestations of the abundant, verdant mid-summer in life and in a career. This is when Life spreads a joyous feast and we roll in her gracious lap, privileged to plunge both our whole hands in the deep cream and stuff ourselves silly.
I remember in the early days at my very first professional job when I was a new-hire just out of university. I haughtily gazed out of the painted-shut kitchen windows of my first rented apartment and dared dream of owning a condo on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island with a view of the river. All was as it should be. I walked down the street from my good-salaried job at the end of working days to a lavishly appointed restaurant with the dark, medieval feel I prized and fearlessly ordered Black Angus steak cooked exactly the way I liked it as if I were a Tudor in exile.
Having inherited AAA credit from my mom, who was a homeowner, I observed how she managed the household’s money. That is why I had the awareness to save and my financial “pile” grew very well. However,only a few months later my fortune suddenly changed at work, and my “pile” shriveled like a fallen leaf. Nobody instructed me how to protect myself; nobody shared my sorrow; nobody caught me when I fell like a weevil-infested bud.
My goodness, do we human beings ever love passionately leaping into the lavish arms of summer! We go hog wild plunging into the warm waters, lighting fragrant fires to cook our communal feasts, baking our bodies in the sun and reveling in the lingering daylight. Summer gets to be way too much for me by the middle of it, but I have to confess to one “summer sin”.
I sometimes get cross-eyed “summer drunk”. What?
“Summer drunk” is that sluggish, torpid state of having too much of everything at one time and acting like it will never end. Do you remember last year’s Thanksgiving feast how it felt to be so painfully full after? This is what I mean when I say it is possible to get “summer drunk” any time there is so much blessing and so much overflowing bounty of growth and prosperity. It just becomes extremely hard to keep balance of vision. Summer is here, but winter is also on the direct opposite side. Better to freeze some of that turkey!
There is another danger inherent to gardeners in the summer–laziness and carelessness born of all that comfort and coatless-ness. A creeping forgetfulness particularly associated with this season can make us neglectful to watch for the weeds and diseases that are also springing up right beside the good crops. No garden is without pests or weeds. There is waiting underground a malicious, opportunistic crop not deliberately planted that will not refuse to suck up any nourishment from our cultivated beds. I have observed that the better the soil, the better kept the garden, the higher class of weeds spring up and the more diligent must be the tending.
In the garden and in a career it is important not to get “summer drunk” and forgetful to manage the overflow of summer’s fast, lush growth. While intoxicated (flush?) with present success In the most productive times of life, future old age and disability never come and unemployment happens to inferior others. As a younger professional I saved too little and followed fashion too much. I have since learned that life moves cyclically and as sure as there is an overflowing summer, there is also a starving winter so, it makes sense to learn how to “can” summer produce. That means, learn to save habitually, invest well and spend wisely.
Life is like a non-stop celebration as we begin the season dedicated to rapid, over-the-top growth. When we were younger we may have wished summer would never end. This is the most productive season of life in a career and in a job. Once past the gawky, springtime “new grad/intern” stage, we burst out of formal schooling’s constraints. Familiarity with the rhythms of “the routines and rituals” at work makes confidence grow like morning-glory vines. After the “new-hire” stage we apply the learning we have been so greedily sopping up and hard buds soften into flowers.
Summer allows nothing to hide. There is too much color; too much fragrance; too much movement; too much noise. Everybody notices the new clothes, louder laughter and longer strides in the hallways. As the social meanings of being introverted or extroverted come into full display in meetings and in teams it pays to have a deep, personal understanding of which kind of cultivar one is. While roses reign in their sunny spaces, ferns prefer the comfort of the maple’s shadow. Both thrive in different places in the same garden.
I love indoor container gardening as well as outdoor gardening so I learned–sometimes the hard way–to honor the fact that some tropical plants hate being in drafts and desert-origin plants are natural-born sun worshipers. There is no shame about being either one. So it is with a workforce.
Savvy human capital professionals understand how to choose the right people for the right positions in a company. Workers who understand what kind of environment they need for personal optimum growth will choose a company “garden” wisely.
Spring is a hopeful spirit who rises from death in snowdrops and daffodils. As a child growing up in Norfolk, VA, I remember my mother used to restart the kitchen garden each year a few weeks after Equinox when the ground was soft and warm enough to plant directly. I remember her telling me to put three seeds in the hole. “One for the ground, one for the birds and one to grow”, she said. To think about it, the seeds of a career are not that much different.
ONE FOR THE HOLE
Not every idea seed we sow will grow into a productive career. Some seeds are “duds”. Sally Jessy Raphael tried out for 142 voiceover acting jobs and never got a single one. She was fired 18 times from broadcasting jobs before she became the nationally acclaimed talk show host we know. Every alleged “overnight sensation” has “paid the dues” in darkness and obscurity for years. The seed “for the ground” is almost like an offering given at the beginning of a project to honor your “grounding/base”. To this day there is a suspicion that some of the mishaps that took the lives of immigrant construction workers while they were building the earliest transportation infrastructure of this nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries (including the Transcontinental Railroad and the Erie Canal) were not accidents, but offerings to the earth like the one said to have been performed before raising the great Irish round fort, Emain Macha (Eamhain Mhacha).
ONE FOR THE BIRDS
Some seeds end up as food for the crows or get dug up by other critters living in the garden. The “one for the birds” is any misbegotten, meshuggener idea of building a career on weaknesses instead of innate strengths. This is “operating outside your gift” such as the nurse who ought to be a researcher; the teacher who ought to be an administrator. This is the folly of walking a path not your own because “mom/friend/school guidance counselor told me this would be good for me”. Using the example of my own life, I fought hard to become an administration worker though it was obvious that kind of job is like a prison for me. It was only when I decided to stop “playing it safe” in my career search that I found my true calling.
ONE TO GROW
The prosperous, strong seed is the one whose taproot pieces through the crust of misdirection and life’s nonsense, boring a channel to the place where it will strike water and begin building a richly branched network anchor in the correct soil. May I reemphasize that this seed will only grow strong roots in a profession through diligent, persistent networking?This is the seed which in its season will stretch upward leaves toward the sun and begin bringing food and color to the plant. The strong career seed is the one directly in synch with innate strengths, gifts and talents. We must labor to ensure that we set this seed up for optimum development of the bud that will become flower and fruit.
What is the best fertilizer to use when growing a life or a career?
Let me tell you how I discovered it. One of our grandsons popped in for a visit one fall day. As we lounged on the back deck, his restless gaze landed in the gutter–the gutter that crowns the edge of the roof. “Grandpa, there’s trees growing in your gutters. I can get that stuff out in a jiffy!”. Quick as you please the young man hoisted himself up on the roof.. He then began tossing off rooted oak seedlings and other plants naturally potted in rotting bark, rain-soaked, decayed leaves and soil. It was a shockingly blissful thing to suddenly inhale the perfume of perfectly blended, sweet, fecund compost raining off the roof to the ground around the foundation of the house. My gutters had become a seed bed for a new maple/oak forest, a field of wild flowers, and whatever other kind of wild garden the wind, the bees, the blue jays and the orioles were creating.
What is the best fertilizer to use when growing a life or a career?
All the failures; all the rotted memories; all the “accidental learning”; all the mentoring; all the tears; all the discoveries; all the little victories; all the forgotten research. The very best fertilizer to use when growing a life or a career is composted life experience.