December 2021: Advice to Achieve Success & Happiness

Advice to Achieve Success and Happiness: Reflecting on a 40-year career

By: Gene Gregory

Having worked more years than I like to admit, there are a few things that I have learned that helped me succeed and find fulfillment in my work.  While we all approach our work careers differently, I hope my experiences will resonate with you. Here are three things I attribute to my continued success and passion:

  1. Define and evaluate career goals.
  2. Strive to make the most of the workday.
  3. Never stop learning.

  1. Define & Evaluate Career Goals

Early on, I hated the interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” because I just wanted to get the job and make a living.  Over time, as I learned more about my work commitment, personality and style, this was a question that I ask myself periodically.   The question came in different forms: “How can I progress in this job?,” “What do I like and dislike about my job?,” and more generally, “Where does work fit in my life plan?”

The answers to these questions differ person-to-person and change over time. Periodic self-examination is an important part of the process because life circumstances play a significant role in career goals. Work goals often become timed to changing financial goals (i.e., family support, homeownership, wealth accumulation, and retirement funding).  Other hierarchal “needs” become drivers (need to belong, self-esteem, and creative fulfillment).

My goals morphed from simply having a job into a desire to be a team member in a successful organization, use what I knew to help others succeed, exhibit confidence in my skills, and use my work as a small contribution to a better society.  As I gained more experience, I wanted to lead and build teams.  I believe general goals of these types underlie decisions about job, position, and work responsibility.

  1. Strive to make the most of the workday

I strive to make the most of my workday by being productive, engaged, and approachable. One way I embrace this goal is being responsive, no matter who needs my input. Being responsive demonstrates to the recipient that they are important while showing that I am well-organized and a doer. I believe this also plays a role in being a good leader, team player, and colleague.

Team building is important! It enables employees to learn from each other and develop new skills. I focus on team building by expressing my gratitude and reinforcing why my colleague’s work matters.

Lastly, hosting effective meetings is a sure way to make the most of the workday! Here are my top tips for hosting meetings:

  1. Define the goal
  2. Respect the time
  3. Stick to the meeting’s agenda
  4. Set clear action points and next steps

Too often, we leave a meeting right where we started!

  1. Never Stop Learning

The work world from my early employment years and today are vastly different. The manufacturing jobs I held as a teenager barely exist today.  At the start of my accounting and finance career, we used green, column-lined spreadsheets, manual ledgers, and financial tables. Now, we use automated, complex spreadsheets and software programs. Adjusting and transitioning to new platforms at times felt like a scramble; however, I believe (for the most part) that the benefit of formal education is that it teaches us the ability to learn.  My final point on this topic is to beware of comfort in what you know and remember that a critical element to being successful is embracing new concepts, methods, and technologies — what you know can become irrelevant history.

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