Sunday, February 24, 2008
Alphabet Soup - Letter "W"
For the letter W I want to write a few words about WORK.
I've changed jobs recently at the college where I work. I've moved from a position of supportive coordination and data analysis for program evaluation to being the director of a different department - sitting in the hotseat as the Grand Poobah with supervisory authority over 65 people. YIKES.
However, rather than let it go to my head, I am reminded of some of the best bosses I have known over the years, those who have set fine examples of servant leadership. I've had a few arrogant idiots show me what NOT to do. But I've also had a few fine men and women as bosses in the past who taught me well. Hopefully I can model my own style of leadership in the fashion I've been shown by some of them as I approach this new responsibility.
I've had A LOT of different kinds of work over the years.
My very first job as an adult was as sign carrier outside a health spa in Phoenix. From there I moved on to phone solicitor. Later I worked in a factory making CB antennas. I was an office assistant. I was a dishwasher. I worked as a nanny. And then I began climbing the education mountain which led me to a whole different scope of jobs - juvenile probation officer, mental health worker, HIV/AIDS prevention educator, adjunct instructor of sociology, executive director of a non-profit, marketing director of a retirement community, and at least half a dozen other jobs with varying degrees of authority/responsibility.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about what work means to me...to what extent it defines me and to what extent it is merely the necessary activity I do to pay for the rest of my life.
I've learned so much about myself in the pursuing of work.
Every job I've every had has had elements that I disliked. All but one of my jobs have had things about them that I deeply appreciated (the cb factory was horrid with no redeeming value other than the paycheck, and that was scarecely worth the mind numbing drudgery. I THANKED the president of the company when he fired me for spending too much time reading the want ads looking for a new job when I was supposed to be at my post - it was a deplorable job that I truly despised.)
I've also thought a lot about how we pick what it is we do. I've thought about the role models I've had that have shown me the range of what is possible. I've thought about the mentors who have helped teach me key life lessons to help me along the way.
Work gives meaning and diection to my life in so many significant ways.
So many people spend their lives dreading Monday morning returns to the workplace. They live for vacation and count the days till retirment. But I choose to take a different view. I spend most my waking hours working. It just makes sense to me to embrace it rather than curse it. I love my vacations, but I also feel deeply grateful for the work I have had come my way. Work is not a necessary evil to me. It has been my joy, my opportunity, my gift, my blessing in so many ways.
I hope I can honorably meet the challenge of this new job I've taken on. I'm certain I'll make my share of mistakes. But when it is all said and done I hope I can bring vision and direction to the department in a way that will guide the team I will be working with so we can all bring our best gifts and abilities forward. I hope to set a tone where we can trust each other and have fun in doing what we do.
I know there will be days when I will hate my job. I will get exasperated by the endless meetings, all the required paperwork, the politics, and the inevitable dysfunctions of the bureaucracy. But through it all, I want to remember that I have a chance with this job to make a difference in some ways that I truly believe in, despite the chaos I will have to sometimes wrestle with. I don't know how long I'll do this job. I suspect it will be no more than a couple years at most. But whether I'm in in 30 days or ten long years...I aim to give it my best shot. And I really am gratefuly for the blessing of work.