“You must teach the people to labor with their hands and realize the dignity of work” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

There are distinct phases of ones work experience. These are surviving, trying, striving, diving, thriving. And being aware of which one you are currently in can help you better plan  your finances to ensure you can still pay for tuition over time.

Surviving

When you first start working – or start a new job – you are working to survive. It’s a challenge to find the bathroom much less determine where to add value and understand the social norms of the new group. Mistakes are plentiful and humbling experiences occur daily, sometimes hourly.

Accept that this will happen and don’t worry too much about it.

Trying

Soon enough you will be part of a team and understand how things work. Here you can add real value. This is when you build some credibility. This is not the time for long vacations. Working extra hours and expecting to be less productive than folks who know the systems well is to be expected. Keep trying. You will get to the next phase.

Striving

Eventually, after what seems like a very long time (this can take a year or more) you will be striving. You will know enough to make significant contributions and know to do so without being told or asked. And your successes will actually outnumber your mistakes! Woot!

With striving comes more responsibility. It makes sense to give work to a busy person[1] who can get stuff done. You are now that person.

In the striving phase you are fairly secure but you must continue to work hard.

Diving

Inevitably, though,  a simple task will be given to you which has hidden career danger. It seems routine but little do you know that it is difficult, high profile and has huge impact. And you will screw it up.

Here you will be diving. How you behave – not what you contribute- will determine what happens next. Do you point fingers or accept where you made mistakes? For items out of your control do you shared lessons learned with others in the organization? Or do you talk about people behind their backs  and make excuses rather than find a way forward?

You may not be employed at this end of this phase and need a new job. And that is OK.  Either way you should act with integrity, be rationale and search for ways to contribute.  Curiously, taking time away  from the work place makes sense. Your judicious use of leave and finances stored up in the past should now give you some flexibility to get away to get perspective. And it signals to your employers that you this is a bit much. When colleagues are dishing it out they sometimes forget all the stuff you are actually doing for the team. Moreover, your emotions may be so charged at this point that extra activity will actually be detrimental. Take some time.

Thriving

If you do well in diving – and build people up around you instead of tearing them down – the next phase can be thriving. Here you have the time in organizaiton, have proven yourself to be a team player and have learned some very difficult lessons that make you much more efficient.

A presumably lighter load is now easier to get done. You work harder and find satisfaction in doing the right things the right way.

Successes build up and compound.  Distractions for activity without results will start to appear. Carefully control your fear of missing out and focus on contribution[2] instead. Pulling some of your financial reserves to repair something major you have been ignoring is good to do during this phase. And active community involvement is great here as it helps prevent burn out and boredom – and reminds you of where other folks are in this cycle.

Keep these phases in mind and don’t inflate your life style in good times

Be careful though – these phases bounce around. You could be back diving or surviving without warning – a mistake, a transfer, a new job or simply a change in the economics of your particular field can put you in a different phase over night.

It follows that it makes sense to keep emergency savings, stay in touch with former companies and coworkers and always work hard to provide value. If you are aware of these phases you won’t assume thriving (and the income bumps that sometimes goes with it) will always be the case.  This in turn should help  prevent you from home and car upgrades  to align your lifestyle with your rising – and perhaps temporary – income. Instead, stay the course and realize there will be dips and valleys. Be satisfied to build up reserves and peace of mind. Your goal is to pay tuition, not travel the world. Be satisfied with doing that and then make hay while the sun is shining.

 

[1] Imagaes, Paul Harizan/Getty. “Why It’s Smart to Ask a Busy Person for Help.” Science of Us. Accessed September 02, 2017. http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/03/why-its-smart-to-ask-a-busy-person-for-help.html.

[2] Mickos, Marten. “Focus on contribution.” School of Herring. November 16, 2015. Accessed September 02, 2017. http://schoolofherring.com/2015/11/16/focus-on-contribution/

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