Your First Real Job 

Our growing children are becoming less dependent on our parenting.  In fairness that little transition started on their seventh birthday, but we all pretended we were very important in the decisions our offspring made, though our consulting conversations had diminished significantly over time.  By diminished, I mean you discovered what your teenage children were up to, through casual conversations with the neighbours.

The school years of our young adults are finally finished.  Resumes capturing the McDonalds shifts and unremarkable summer jobs are now being submitted to unsuspecting HR departments in every building in the country, that has more than two floors of office space.

First real jobs are being acquired at a slow pace, and young adults are starting to contemplate their role in shaping the future.  Anticipating a regular pay cheque, automatically deposited in the menial bank account that is currently burdened with unpaid student loans.

So how is one to prosper in this techno reliant, virtually driven new business environment?  The truth is I do not have a clue. The rapid change of old to new business practices seems to occur hourly.  My antiquated understanding of what was a reliable business model, has made me rather unqualified to help today’s budding career conscious executive bound employees. Recent performance reviews that highlight my inability to adapt to change are well documented in HR filing cabinets. Fortunately for you, people’s opinion of me, has never stopped me from offering my opinion.

I will offer one suggestion that might help you. An idea I wished someone had given to me so many years ago, when I began my relatively successful career in a much different business world.  This advice would have saved me a few sleepless nights as I struggled with my work life priorites.

Write your retirement speech now!

At your cubicle, at your work station, on the loading dock, at the counter of your store, or if you are very fortunate, in your company car, start writing now. Grab a pencil (you will make a mistake or two) a piece of paper, the back side of your company’s policy and procedure document will suffice, and write that speech you will orate forty years from now.

Describe in vivid detail, what you will acknowledge forty years from now, and emphasize the things you are going to remember from years of answering to “the man”.  Regardless of the employment you have secured, where your company is drastically underpaying you for your entry level position, write that retirement speech. This should only take about an hour. This little exercise will help you to start thinking about things far beyond the next quarter of business. You may even be labeled as a visionary, which will help you down the road, when you apply for the CEO job, that you are currently convinced, is the only role suited for your superior knowledge and skills.

If this idea is too crazy to even consider on your first day of work, because a long range plan is hard to do when you can barely plan for this weekend, allow me to coax you a little:

“Ladies and Gentleman, honoured guests and family. It is hard to believe that my work life has come to an abrupt end. I am struggling with feelings of both sadness and relief as I share my random thoughts on the subject of the end of a career. I now better understand the phrase “It’s Over”. 

I am aware, that people took a significant risk in just hiring me.  I was under qualified, while displaying fake confidence, however some one saw something in me and took a chance. That chance that allowed a keen graduate with potential to grow.

I want to sincerely thank the manager who gave me the bad news that I did not get the promotion. I want acknowledge that my reaction of  “It was a political decision, the company doesn’t know what they are doing!” and other self created conspiracy theories, was simply sour grapes. The best person who did get the job was the right choice, and I learned that once I worked for that wonderful individual.

I want to thank the many presidents I have worked with. They all had their strengths to help drive our mutual success. The ones I want to thank the most are those leaders who took the time to chat on busy days, and made me feel I was the most important employee in the building.  Not every leader has been inspirational, but I even thank those less qualified people who tried to inspire, because you taught me very valuable lessons on what not to do.

I will kind of remember all of the work, all the projects, all the deadlines, all the late nights and early morning meetings. I will vaguely remember the proposals we lost to a better competitor, and the disappointments of well-done work that led to unsuccessful outcomes. I will attempt to remember leading or contributing to important projects that sustained company growth. I hope to remember preparing for performance reviews that occasionally prompted significant raises and bonus. 

These are the things I will remember least.

The work was important but in reality, when I am drinking beer on weekdays sitting on my Muskoka chair, somewhere far away from here, work will not dominate my thinking. I did feel compelled to mention my work, as my boss is sitting in the second row here, and I wanted a reasonable rating for my final performance review this year.

It is, and always will be the people I worked with that I will remember fondly. You have challenged me, changed me for the better and simply inspired me daily to be a better person. Most of you do not realize the subtle impact you had on me with just a nod, acknowledgement or even the occasion piece of constructive feedback that exposed blind spots and my human deficiencies.

Some of those people are in this room right now, but many are not as downsizing, better career opportunities or sadly, health issues have taken you away from me.

Each one of you populate an important place in my memory, that is indelibly stamped with tattoo like permanency. I will protect those cherished thoughts long after the important understanding of quality control and compliance protocols have vanished. I will just smile when I think of your name.

Your siblings might owe you $15.00 for that pizza you ordered a month ago, but the world owes you nothing.  Let me repeat that so we can align to this trendy word of “Entitlement”.   The world owes you nothing, as you discover you owe so many so much.  The regular emotional withdraws will never balance the occasional deposits you made but the good people were never measuring that.

I want to thank you all for the unsuspecting gift of colleague to friendship.  I only hope that somehow I made some similar contribution to your life, though I suspect it is considerably less than what all have given to me.

Finally the last words are to my family. A family who kind of knew what I did for a living, but my gratitude for your support, understanding and tolerance was never truly expressed. I was just too busy working.  My words will never capture my feelings and devotion to you, so I will stop and just say thank you for undeserved support and understanding one more time.  You are the ones who sacrificed the most, and received the least for forty years.  I will try to correct that error in judgement, with the time I now have.

Thank you all, the time was ours, but the pleasure was mine”

So that is it. A poor sample, of what I am asking you to do. Remember my intent was to coax, not to write your bloody speech. As you sit there annoyed by my request, think hard of what is going to be important to you and put extra energy into making time for those things that matter.

After you write this speech, read it to yourself once in a while, to help remind you of where you are going versus where you thought you were going. Write this before your head gets clouded with superior business acumen, well-learned cynicism and waning appreciation of your endless possibilities.  Edit it yearly as you come to your own life long conclusions about what is important to you. If you can keep a little of your current enthusiasm and increase your humility along the way, you will outperform most of your colleagues.

I promise you if you take a little time to do this on your first day of work, your second day at work will be a significantly better day.

Cue the Blong, When you reach the point of not caring about others opinion of you, You’re in a better place than most… I Don’t Give A…









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