Balance

Truth - People spend a significant amount of their lives working. The work environment can be a wild place. Navigating it's hierarchies, pitfalls, and trick question is a job in an of itself. Being successful in your work is not just about the qualifications, talents, and skills you bring but build community, connection, and networking where you are, and beyond. It's about deciding how you want to show up at work, and holding yourself accountable to doing so. It's about finding that mythical sense of "balance."

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony." Thomas Merton


Starting a new job, in my case my first job, is a process. Navigating the workplace, particularly the organizational politics takes times, and figuring out where you fit into it all can be woefully confusing. Building connections and maintaining relationships honestly seems to be the main work that I've been doing with my task oriented items coming in second place. Investing in those relationships now, especially in a profession that is built on the bedrock of connectivity will pay dividends as I seek to work interdependently with others. Reaching out to people to introduce myself, going to lunches, and inquiring about their work/what they hope to accomplish with regards to me/my position has been helpful. Gathering external perspectives of what people see my role as and the initiatives they are looking forward to collaborating on has been well worth the effort. Beyond that, listening way more than I speak has been truly informative. I'm just taking everything in, learning the lingo, and reading between the lines. When I do speak I make sure I am bringing a brand new perspective - not building off the ideas of others - and saying something of substance as succinctly and clearly as I can; then it's back to listening. Taking the time to hold back, listen deeper, and wait to respond has given more time to put my thoughts together, say what I need to say, and have a more profound impact. It's about finding some kind of balance.

There were a few things that I knew I was going to implement as soon as I started working, the biggest ones being not working at home, and reserving time during my day to be alone, reflect, and assess how I'm feeling. They have been the best things that I have committed myself too. I am also lucky to have a supervisor who was willing to hear those things, and to support my efforts to stick to them. Because of my age, and other social factors, the urge to overcompensate, prove my worth, and impress others is strong but I am vigilant is challenging those thoughts and moments. I vocalize to myself that I deserve to be here; I worked to get this job; and I am more than capable to do my work - nothing extra is required of me. The impostor syndrome is real but my self-determination is stronger. When the work day ends I wrap up anything I'm working on, leave my work notebook on my desk, and leave. I do not respond to emails after 5PM - hell, I don't even think about work when I'm at home. My work stays at work and it has been the most liberating thing to happen to me. I scheduled time as soon as I arrive and right before I leave to write in a separate journal tracking my accomplishments, things I'm learning, and most importantly, how I'm doing as a person. Those two things are critical to achieving balance for me.


Working, for me least, is all about communication. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be talk openly, honestly, and directly with your co-workers, particularly your supervisor. In applying to jobs it was arguably the most important factor, beyond the actual duties of the job. I can do just about anything, but that is largely dependent on my relationship with my supervisor. The most common reason people leave a job is their supervisor/manager. Finding one that works well with me, is open to conversation, and gives me what I need to succeed and  remain engaged in my work is critical to succeeding. Mine spent an hour with me my first three days of working to recap each day, check in, and give me anything I needed. Then we spent an hour and a half together just getting to know one another personally and professionally going over things that irk us, what our strengths are, and how we like to receive feedback. That to me meant a lot. That is a tangible manifestation of care. It is proof that they care not just about the work I do for/with them, but me as a person, and my growth and development. I know that prioritizing that relationship for me will only benefit us both too. Feeling comfortable to address issues, convey problems/create solutions, and to speak candidly with a supervisor is something I value highly. Working can be about managing up and doing your self-advocacy to position yourself where you'll thrive. Learn the best ways to approach your supervisor, and speak in the ways that they are most comfortable with. Work life gets so much more productive when you adhere to people's quirks, preferences, and needs - within reason. It's a balance of speaking up for yourself and negotiating what others require of you.


Balance to me looks like refraining from answering text messages or phone calls at work, not browsing social media, and using my time wisely. It's actually been really refreshing to disappear for 8.5 hours a day while at work. I have a designated time once I get home to get back to people and check in with others. I also get to focus on my work, stay on task, and put in serious work. My distractions are now just things out of my control, students needing help, casual workplace conversation, and random things that pop-up. I even put my headphones in to pretend to listen to music which serves as my universal sign to "do not disturb." Time management and sticking to one thing - multitasking does not actually exist - taking a break to do something else, and coming back to it ensures that I prioritize my responsibilities. My expectations are realistic and tangible. I work within my means. Finding balance in the workplace can be as simple as deciding that balance will be part of all your days. 


The last thing about the workplace is identify your allies and advocates. These are the people who you feel comfortable going to for help, asking questions, and getting support whenever you need it. The idea of a work-partner truly is one that is worth building upon. It's that person that you feel most connected to, and who reciprocates that feeling of connectedness. It's the people you might hang out with outside of work, or the first person you greet every morning. Great if you have one in your office, even better if you have one who works in a different department. Being able to speak your truth - which has a distinct difference from venting/trash talking your co-workers/boss - is something everyone needs to be able to do. Bouncing ideas, coming up with ways to address issues, and someone to give you the lay of the land is an invaluable resource to have at your disposal. You bring fresh ideas, new perspectives, and some amiable naivety that is useful for them as well. Find your people, and hold on to them - community is a big part of the working life. Be someone who gives praise just as often if not more than they give critique. Find the balance for your contributions and your social time at work. X

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