Along with finding your perfect morning hot beverage formula, there are a few important ways protect you dreams, ambitions, health and sanity throughout the treacherous maze of building a career. Here are five promises to make to yourself that might be helpful as you navigate its many corners and dead-ends:
I will pursue balance over all-nighters.
Remember that intern who died because he’s been up for three straight days? There is a difference between being dedicated to your job and sacrificing your physical and mental health. Especially when you’re young and trying to prove yourself, it is tempting to work every waking hour you have, then bomb three sugar-free Red Bulls and keep working.
But in the long term, you can’t get the promotion if you develop a caffeine-based medical condition. In the even longer term, you can’t pursue your why, the reason you work so hard – whether it’s to help kids, the environment, artists, families or entrepreneurs – if you aren’t maintaining balance in your own life. Call your mom. Spend time on your hobbies besides work. And remember: Brunch with girlfriends is a vitally important use of your time, so put the phone away.
I will believe in my work.
Whether you are Secretary of State or making sandwiches, make sure that you complete your work with integrity. If you love your work, it may just be a matter of not over-promising yourself so you can do each project with your full capability. But if you hate your job, it’s very easy to just waste time on Twitter to get through the long, boring, not-getting-you-anywhere day.
If you’re proud of your work, even on a task that is lame and horrible, you are in a much better position to get yourself out of your terrible job with a good recommendation to the next, better job. Doing a half-hearted job because you hate it doesn’t serve how you feel about yourself or your career.
When I get the opportunity to betray someone to get ahead, I won’t.
Everyone will get at least one chance to do something less than polite to get a slight edge. Whether it’s bringing up a co-worker’s tardy record when you’re competing against her for a promotion or something more sinister, these opportunities are common and easy. Make a promise to yourself before it happens.
It’s not that you need to always be nice at work, and it’s often necessary to contradict a superior in order to move a project forward. But remember: Charlie didn’t get to lead Willy Wonka’s company by giving up information on the everlasting gobstopper, even when he had the chance. You will get that chance. Follow Charlie’s example. He’s CEO of an international confectionary brand now, he’s doing okay for himself.
If something feels wrong, I will trust my instincts.
As an intern or young professional, you often feel like you don’t want to bring up issues because you’re not sure of your security. There is a difference between making waves and advocating for yourself. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your company’s policies on harassment and other potential issues, and know who your human resources contact would be if something happened.
If something feels wrong, whether you’re asked to do something you’re not comfortable with or you’re enduring gross comments, don’t just brush it off because you’re new on the job. Just because you’re a young professional doesn’t mean you have to keep your mouth shut.
I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.
Listen, cubicle warriors: You don’t always have to work through lunch. You don’t have to be an executive by the time you’re 30. You can take a vacation. You can spend money on yourself. You can have a cupcake (or a cocktail) during the office birthday lunch, and you don’t even have to feel bad about enjoying it.
We demand of ourselves an impossible level of success. We seem to all feel like we should dominate 5am spin class before sweeping in to lead a meeting on solving world hunger while wearing a perfectly crisp white suit with not one green stain from the organic kale juice we eat at every meal. By promising to hold yourself to a standard of grace, not perfection, it gives you room to be who you actually are, not who you think you should be.
Who you are is this: You are a lady who is doing great. You’re trying hard. You’re giving it your all. In the words of Cheryl Strayed: You don’t have a career, you have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue.
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