The dog days of summer are nearly over and twilight lengthens, dissolving into cooler evenings. Some places in the garden are getting that summer fatigued stoop and the mind lightly turns not to love, but to football!
This is the perfect time for setting out the fall bloomers so the land will not become suddenly, depressingly colorless. From the 9th floor of my building I note the topmost maple branches blooming, dreaming about spinning their cups into gold. My thoughts light like the first emerging monarch butterfly upon how time is hurrying to the end/beginning of the Earth’s circle dance around the sun. With that idea in mind, I start turning in at the craft store more often, planning the next seasons’ home decor.
Autumn is coming. Is the light fading at work? Is there a little less joy when the commute ends in the parking lot? Are fewer challenges presenting and every project old news? At the top of the salary grade for the position?
It may be career summer’s end. Start collecting positive evaluations.
How much did your sales influence the company’s bottom line? Can you quote numbers for your resume update?
What quality of work did the team under your watch produce? Do you have graphics to prove it? White papers?
What did the clients say? Can you get those glowing reports in post-able form?
Is there a digital album of the “best of the best”–the sweetest fruit–in words and images?
Is there a Linked-In profile update working? Are other companies watching you?
Like the first tints of gold on the Maple leaf, that comfortable, but slightly itchy feeling may be the first sign of stagnation at work. When the “light” or the “passion” shifts in a career or a job there comes a “summer fatigued” feeling. It may be time to do what my mom used to do when summer’s best was all over the kitchen table, at its peak and abundant: start canning, preserving and making wine. Start capturing the best of career/job summer before the frost of disaffection comes.
What does the entire garden look like from the second floor balcony? This is THE question of the mature, full bloom stage of summer in the garden. Do all the colors work together? Are the results of your labor now perfuming the July air? Is the dream of beauty imagined back in icy winter planning a fruitful, blooming reality now?
It ought to be.
This moment is what all the worrying, weeding, and feeding is about: high summertime; the zenith of a job; the highest point of a career; the best produce of a lifetime. These are the flourishing days when the salary is the best. Remember not to get “summer drunk”; preserve some of the bounty. These are the days when influence is the strongest. Remember to keep building and maintaining the personal and professional networks.They are like attar of roses.
These are the days when certain prized projects will almost “fall into your lap” like early ripe fruit out of the trees. Keep scrapbooks about them. Keep records (like pressed flowers). Keep pictures (accurate descriptions of your role in projects). Gather stories to tell in the winter (you will need material for S.O.A.R. stories to advance to the next job). Remember to harvest the best and strongest fruits/results for these SEEDS. This is NEXT YEAR’S garden, the future and the heritage.
These are also the days when weeds show themselves for what they really are. Uproot them carefully. Remember they have been stealing your garden’s care and are just as strongly rooted as the good plants living very near them. Remember the old adage, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. It pays now to have mentors’ and career coaches’–master gardeners’–expert advice.
…And this sweet moment is but a breath, so we hold it as long as we can before exhaling slowly. First Harvest is near.
If there is any one summer task that typifies the season, it is weeding. Weeds grow…well, like weeds in the summertime garden. Weeds spring up in career planning movements too. A weed is any plant that is out of place or out of context in the garden. A flower somewhere else is a weed where it is not welcome.
A wild rose springing up in a pedigreed rose bed is a weed. Ivy dangling in a hanging pot is cute. Helix sprawling wild, overpowering other plants in a yard is not so cute. The way a corporation relates to a worker is determined by whether or not that worker is looked upon as a weed or a flower. Question: Was the hiring placement appropriate? A worker might thrive and bloom in one kind of work environment, but be utterly barren and ugly somewhere else. Do oaks grow in the desert? Do aloe thrive on the seashore?
This is the reason for having carefully thought out career management strategies. For well-informed career decisions to be made it is necessary to know, understand and honor personal cultivar—-one’s own nature, personality and needs. the lessons of the garden and a bit of ancient wisdom taught me to always take a comprehensive view of any project before starting it, or risk being embarrassed by the results of bad planning. This includes deciding not to accept incorrect job placements in companies whose missions and cultures would make me like a rose in the desert or dandelion in a front lawn. Shriveled. Miserable. Unwelcome. Weed. Surviving several bad job decisions in my life taught me to make sure to make that target jobs are in line with well thought out career goals so to not end up as heather in the desert.
In the height of summer, things grow fast in the garden. Growth needs to be carefully monitored. Some plants will need repotting or relocation because they have outgrown the starter seedling pot or the small bed. One thing I learned from growing plants in captivity is that a gardener can damage a plant by allowing it to become “pot bound”. This is a condition where the growing roots fill the pot and then twist in on themselves. If trans-potted too late, leaves wilt, yellow and fall. This is what a plant with overcrowded roots does: attempt to stunt its own growth to suit the space.
Babies outgrow their clothes so fast in their first year of development that they change sizes at least 3 times that year. The same goes for growing children’s feet. Those tiny toes can become crooked, curled under or grow on top of each other trying to make the best use of limited space in an outgrown shoe.
Just as human beings grow physically, we also grow spiritually and intellectually. Professionals can become “pot bound” too. Suddenly, there is an awareness of being “crowded” in a current position. A new hire in fast professional development mode will become uncomfortably, unnaturally bent over trying to avoid hitting the “ceiling”. We have a big tree trying to grow inside a little house. There always comes a time in a job that the “newness” wears off and there is a desire for more challenge: space to grow deep and spread wide. We get bored with the limited tasks that only need a beginner’s skills. I remember being so bored on one job that I fought to stay awake at work. There is a passionate drive to know more, to explore and to expand.
A bigger corporate pot might solve the problem until signs of outgrowing it appear again (such as boredom and restlessness). At last, some professionals may seek space through moving up into management. Some ferns make their homes very well clustered in the spaces at the roots of trees. Big trees, however, need space. Some professionals who understand the limits of their corporate pot to tolerate farther expansion may need to transplant out to find more space–another company.
Toward the eve of solstice in the cycle of the seasons, a comment about that “before June 21st” time period in a job and in a career is appropriate. The work of summer in the garden and in a career is all about watching, weeding and feeding.
Coming up to the high point of the most productive time in a job, it is necessary to watch for weevils, weeds and blight. Weevils will cause a glorious, prize-winning rosebud to suddenly turn black and drop. Unseen, the beasties ate out the heart of the bud. It can happen in a job. Early in the beautiful bud of being a new-hire, it is important not to miss signs that all is not well at work. Tear a page out of my book as an example. When I was an early professional ad writer at a radio station:
Coworkers never welcomed me into their circle and made a study never to engage me socially
I was never assigned a desk of my own, forced to sometimes work from the office floor
Coworkers never discussed clients’ needs or their ad campaign concepts with the writer–me. No exchange of ideas.
Media sales staff resented the writer’s presence at client meetings and complaints prompted management to allow them to leave the writer behind in the office
I was never invited to join them at lunch
Questions from on-air staff included, “What DO you do around here?”
Lesson: I should have watched for weevils. I was never going to become a real part of that staff. Ever. There should not have been any surprise the station manager and the Sales Manager one day ended their meeting with me with, “I don’t know why you didn’t work out…you were so promising in school…maybe it’s because you’re from the south…”
Result: Bud drop. Career as an advertising professional abruptly halted. Bitter memories for over 25 years. Beginning of a negative resume.