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.
The cold and snow reminds us of winter, but the earth is warming. The light is brightening. No matter what day it is on the local wall calendar, if the distinct signs of career spring are present, then it is career St. Brighid’s Day. Hope and ambition’s fires take the kindling and leap into passionate life.
The beginning of career / job spring is the time spanning the end of pre-employment negotiations through the final “yes” handshake. The ink is stone dry on the agreement and the applicant morphs into new hire.
Several things are now top-of-the-list important but most important of all is the immediate application of the “First 100 days” plan. The First 100-days plan might be a note in the margin on an overall Life Management Plan, the master plan that embraces every aspect of living on the planet earth: career management, professional development, intellectual expansion, physical care, community relations and spiritual growth. It should be ready to be lifted right out of the general career marketing/management plan part of career management. (Once again, already well thought out and written down during career winter. This is another reason the work of winter is so important.)
A Cautionary tale
Around February, I can smell the change in the air, so when I get a “whiff” of spring (my sinuses never lie) and the sunlight slants a certain way, I check to see if the ground is soft enough to fertilize the roses. If it is, I fertilize with a pest repelling rose food that will feed the fast growing, hungry shoots. One year, I was too slow in doing this task and discovered pests already partying in the malformed rosebuds. I had to lop off an entire branch that year.
The “First 100 days plan” in a career is like the first fertilizer application to a prize winning rose. It is part of the work of spring.
Champagne toasts, red envelopes and fireworks celebrating the appearance of a new year are like the “bridge” in a song. They alert us that another theme/melody/movement/directional change immediately follows. The same visual triggers also prompt movement in other areas of life. People building new careers or making bold professional moves are not disregarding or disengaging from reality when they hear the tinkle of glasses and the midnight gong. The “sudden” far-away look in their eyes is not to be mistaken for some unclassified madness. It is the early-stirring “Snowdrops” of intention and direction. The earliest manifestations of the end of a career/ job winter might be unusual inner calm; a mysterious confidence that defies the obviously icy outer conditions.
Confidence developed during the winter is churning out energy for the mind’s muscle in response to the brightening light of renewed purpose and hope. One day soon, the air will have that distinctive, sparkling smell of spring and the iron cold of winter will loosen its hold. The Winter Crone’s cloak will turn into Brighid’s mantle. In this very moment there is work to be done in rhythm with the steadily increasing pace of development below the ground. It is now time to start the first seeds of the new reality indoors.
The seed of taking on a new profession in the earliest stages of development needs protection the most. It should be started indoors close to the heart and others who can guide the growth and development. Newly taken professional direction is a fragile plant because it still needs to develop the strong roots of experience and the sturdy stem of practitioners’ community that will keep it standing against the blustering suspicions of experts, friends and relations.
This is the time of beginnings: the season to welcome a new year and a new professional–a cultivar unproven with bloom never before seen. It is not a wish; not a threat, but a promise.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. Autumn is an artful stripper and I love the way she strides boldly on to the seasonal stage with a glamorous dance. She titillates the senses with golden maple, then a tingling breeze. At last, she walks off with a flourish of crimson oak.
Of all the seasons of the year, autumn is the one whose core work is transition and most of it involves harvesting. Harvesting is losing, choosing, and stripping. It’s the same way with these autumn days of my life: bold and honest; brutal and beautiful all at the same time. Consider that once upon a time I used to prance down the street in my hip-hugger bell bottom jeans, turning all the heads, thinking to myself in Ebonics, “I cool! I cool, y’all”. I am harvesting the results of the spring and summertime of my life these days. In my tailored power suit, I stop by the pharmacy and search the shelves with my short-sighted eyes for a product called, “icool”. I am losing the favor of a society that prefers youth and beauty. I am choosing to ignore that preference and to strip my life of the idea that anything in Forever 21 will fit.
I am harvesting–taking in and examining–all the fruit of the ideas that grew in my thought garden to see what I will preserve, take cuttings or seed from and what I will compost. The idea that I have intrinsic worth apart from and exclusive of my net worth gets preserved by the gallon. The idea of tagging myself “damaged goods” because I do not meet all the “must have’s” on a job description gets bagged for the curb. Autumn is such an awesome season so full of creative chaos that it has to be the earth’s studio where she makes the beauty of the rest of the year.