The Case For Gratitude

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Career Change, Communication, Happiness, Kelly

~ by Kelly Bush ~

Please, sir, I want some more… some more please and thank you, that is.

If there is a buzzword as we transition from 2016 into 2017, I think the case can be made that it is gratitude. For the past few years, discussions about gratitude have infiltrated popular culture. Even the packaging on products such as tea and chocolates exhort us to take a moment and focus on gratitude. Articles proclaim the health benefits of expressing and feeling gratitude, and in recent yoga classes I find my teachers are referencing its role in our well-being more and more.

So if gratitude has become ubiquitous, why then does it seem to remain somewhat elusive in the work environment?

If gratitude helps us thrive in all aspects of our lives – and is even good for our health – then why isn’t it on the rise at work? After all, saying please and thank you to our colleagues costs nothing but a bit of thought and a moment of time. It is essentially free and yet possesses such great value. So why isn’t it being distributed more generously? And what can we do about this?

First, you have to look for it.

Stressed business woman
When I decided a few years ago to change careers, one of the many things that influenced that decision was my frustration with what felt like an almost complete lack of gratitude in my then-profession. There was a pervasive culture of over-work, one-upmanship and unreasonable expectations combined with inadequate reward/recognition that was incongruous with my values and happiness. It left me feeling trod upon and resentful and that is NOT how I thrive.

When employers fail to recognize the value of their employees appreciably – whether in words, with compensation or by giving growth opportunities – they lose talent. Losing talent means losing the resources invested in developing that talent and even if nothing else here resonates, in simple terms it means a hit to the bottom line. If that doesn’t wake people up … well …

While not every role or organization I now pursue will necessarily be a hive of graciousness, I have found that because I now prioritize gratitude, I am better able to find it. For more than a year I recently had the privilege of working for someone who said please and thank you for nearly everything. I knew that when I went the extra mile to achieve a result that my manager saw my efforts and appreciated them because he always said thank you.

When leadership acknowledges your contribution to the organization, it is an incredible motivator to continue to perform at a higher level. It cost him nothing to let me know my work was appreciated, but that had great value to me. (Thank you, Richard.)

So what do I do when gratitude isn’t forthcoming?

A common piece of career advice is to model your hours/style/attire/practices on those of your supervising managers and to look to them as exemplars. If gratitude isn’t a noticeable part of their professional arsenal, and leadership hasn’t incorporated gratitude into their professional practices, then what? I don’t advocate jumping ship straightaway – because gratitude goes both ways – and walking away without a plan isn’t usually commendable. (There can be exceptions.)

Wedding favors
What helps me thrive in these situations is to take back my agency. Because regardless of a manager’s choices, I am free to be gracious and grateful at work. Whether or not other people engage with gratitude, I am always free to do so. That means say please. Say thank you. Say these things when a colleague does something you appreciate or need. Thank your supervisors when they spend an extra minute teaching you something, or give you an opportunity or help expand your skill set.

Literally be the change you wish to see. It may not change how leadership operates, but my experience has been that I feel more satisfaction at work and thrive more professionally when I know I have expressed gratitude to my colleagues. Upholding my own personal code of conduct has little to do with the choices made by others.

Gratitude for the imperfect.

Sometimes it becomes clear that even after bringing your own gratitude to the table and having served it generously, there just isn’t enough to go around. And that may mean that after thoughtful consideration, it is time to look for a new opportunity or to simply leave.

In my experience, this has been a difficult decision and usually involves disappointment, frustration and sometimes, anger. It is at this point that gratitude becomes absolutely necessary. Because whatever the reason for which I chose to part company with an organization, there are things for which I am grateful – and must express gratitude – in order to thrive in my next role.

There are things I learned. There are things I learned to avoid. There are skills I honed and experience on which I expanded. Sometimes learning that something is not right for me is the lesson I take away from something. And while it may not have been pleasant to learn, I find I am grateful for the knowledge afterward.

Happy woman meditating in a beautiful setting.
In finding gratitude for what an experience taught me – however imperfectly – I am able to recognize its value and role in my career. I am better able to see what was positive and when moving forward, to see its merit and integrate it into my own professional arsenal. Because as the many articles, advisors, teachers and gurus have been proclaiming, gratitude is good for us. It has become essential for me to thrive at work (and life).

by Kelly Bush | LinkedIn

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I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends … I Thrive With A Little Help From My Friends …

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Happiness, Kelly

by Kelly Bush ~

In 1967 The Beatles sang about friends who tell you when you sing out of tune, stick by you even when you’re off-key and who will continue to listen to your song despite the dubious quality of your performance. It’s a cheery, happy ditty with a contagious tune but it’s also sage advice. We thrive with a little help from our friends — not just in life — but also in our work.

I know some would say it’s not the best idea to mix business and friends. And I can appreciate that there are risks. I’ve been burned with this myself. Once, when I introduced a social acquaintance to a professional contact, she made a fool of herself, and I was embarrassed to learn about it later. But that isn’t really what I’m talking about when I think of integrating friends into one’s career. Our friends can be one of our best professional resources simply by being in our lives and by being themselves.

Over the decade+ since I earned my undergraduate degree, I have watched my friends grow into incredibly talented professionals. Some of us went back to graduate school. Some are now Managers or Directors, some are now Creatives, some are Career-Changers … and all of them are people that if I step back and consider from a professional standpoint, are amazingly talented. If these weren’t my friends and I met them now as clients or colleagues, I would be wowed. And since they ARE my friends, I have the opportunity to study the successes of these incredible people from an excellent vantage point.

That’s right. I’m saying that I look at what my friends are doing and let it influence me. Sounds crazy, right? I know. BUT hear me out.

Meeting Discussion Communication Brainstorming Concept
Moving from my twenties to my thirties, I came to know myself better. Which has meant that the friendships that lasted, or the new ones I formed, were more and more in line with my values. These are friendships that run DEEP. These are people whom I admire and trust. “Friends” almost seems an inadequate label for some of these special people. They are integral to my success and comprise a major portion of my happiness.

Given that I value and admire these good friends, I cannot help but notice and celebrate their successes. When a girlfriend of mine recently advocated for herself in an annual review and subsequently received a fantastic promotion and raise that she absolutely deserved, I was ECSTATIC. I was also seriously impressed. She knows her worth and insists it be acknowledged.

Another friend left a stable role at a major corporation to take a chance on a small organization run by people he respects. He subsequently found himself with new professional freedoms and opportunities that have reinvigorated his career. And you better believe, I took note!

A third friend took a title and pay cut to join an organization that offered stability and the benefits her family needed. Watching her find satisfaction in a different way reminded me powerfully that needs can change and that flexibility is a critical component of career success.

And it isn’t just from the successes that I learn. Seeing friends’ professional struggles from up close can be enlightening too. Listening to a dear friend talk about the impact it had on her to be in a job where she was not given the tools she needed to succeed made me think about how important it was for me to address this in my own job.

Listening to another girlfriend express frustration that her employer would give her a pay increase only when she got an offer somewhere else – subsequently making it clear to her that they knew what she was worth and hadn’t been honoring that – was eye-opening.

Sometimes in hearing friends talk about a challenge they are facing, I realize that the same challenge has previously or is currently presenting itself to me. Or through their search for a solution, friends come up with options I had not considered. And it all happens because two friends were chatting about life.

Looking then, for inspiration for our careers, to those people in our lives whom we respect and admire as friends makes perfect sense. My close friends are people whom I trust, value and enjoy. My own career benefits from their role in my life. Because I get by with a little help from my friends. I thrive with a little help from my friends.

by Kelly Bush | LinkedIn

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I Don’t Know. But I Will Find Out.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art, Career, Career Change, Kelly

Once upon a time, I thought I had to know the answer. To any question. To everything about which I was asked. If I couldn’t answer a question definitively, I felt like it meant I was behind and that I had somehow failed to know what I should know. That it meant I was letting the askers down and that they would judge me negatively. I think a lot of people believe this, and in particular, I think many new graduates feel this pressure keenly.

Today, I know this is not the case. (And that sometimes, the askers even intend for you to feel this way!) I also know that this does not have to be how the story ends. You can rewrite the ending — maybe even more than once. Careers, interests and lives are not necessarily linear, and if I have learned anything in the decade+ since I began my career, it is that it is perfectly okay not to know the answer as long as you are willing to work toward finding it. Because therein lies the key — I don’t know the answer. But I will find out. These are some of the most powerful words in my professional — and personal — arsenal.

How linear is YOUR path?
How linear is YOUR path?

There are many instances in which I have encountered this concept over the years, and I can apply it to multiple facets of my career and life. For now, I’d like to look at this concept in terms of choosing a profession. What do I want to be when I grow up? Some people know from the get-go. Some people hem and haw. Some people have no clue. But at 18-19 years of age, we choose a major.

Because at 18-19 years of age we should know what to study to get the right job.

At 21-22 years of age, we graduate with our undergraduate degree — which may or may not be in the subject we originally chose because it may have already become evident that there were things we did not know about ourselves. Having graduated, we then go get a job in the profession for which we are trained.

Because at 21-22 years of age, we should know what kind of job will satisfy and vitalize us.

Then — having chosen a career, we are identified with and by it. When we meet new people, we do the social dance: Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What do you do?

Because our profession/career should now define us.

Hmm… Noticing a pattern here? There is a lot of should going around. And there does not have to be.

The first two years after I completed my bachelor’s degree, I had jobs. I didn’t view them as a career. They were professional roles for which I was qualified and which had benefits and a paycheck attached. I learned some things. I had one good manager who taught me a great deal. (Thank you, Jeff.) I was still figuring out what I wanted so it didn’t bother me much that I wasn’t settled into a specific career path. I was working and that worked for me. But this is not thriving.

Then I took my first job in what became a decade-long career. My Political Science degree got me an entry-level paralegal position at a very good law firm. I was patted on the back and congratulated for choosing this career path. It was stable. I learned the role, sought additional education, climbed the ranks and ultimately ended up as a Legal Analyst at a top-tier company. I succeeded, right? This is IT. I should be really happy.

And I was anything but. I still was not thriving! I was bored, stressed and while good at what I did, it brought me no personal satisfaction. None.at.all. What was wrong with me? I had succeeded in building for myself a stable career in a respectable profession. And I was not happy. Worse yet, I could not answer questions about what more it would take to make me happy. (More money? A better boss? Better work/life balance?) I did not know the answer and when asked, felt like I should know how to fix this.

So I explored. I thought about it. I didn’t make any rash moves — there was no dramatic quitting of my job and then eating ice cream in front of the TV while I faux soul-searched. But if I didn’t know the answer, I needed to find it out. And that meant I went looking. I read. I talked to friends and colleagues whose opinions I valued. I was honest with myself about what I valued, what I wanted and what I no longer wanted.

I began to see that those things which I identified as ‘success’ 10 years earlier no longer aligned with my values. I honored those things that had value to me and sorted out how to give them a more prominent role in my career. And yes, I sought out more education so I that I was qualified to do what made me happy.

Four Freedoms Park - Jan 2015.2
Thriving in NYC, Four Freedoms Park.


The result:
A career change at 33 years of age and no sense of guilt for having done it. Because it isn’t a mark of failure to recognize that you didn’t know something. I did not know at 22 years of age that I would love working in the art world. I had no exposure to this field and had no way of knowing that what I thought would make me happy was not the right fit. But when I began to know what I didn’t know, I went looking for the answer. Not knowing was not failing. Not finding out would have been failure. And through my education and experience I had come to see that clearly.

So what’s next now that I took the leap and landed (happily) in a new profession? I don’t know. But I will find out. And that means I am thriving.

by Kelly Bush | LinkedIn

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