Remember Your First Job?

‘How do you find the love of your job the way you loved your very first job?’

This topic has been inspired by a number of coaching clients I’m working with one-on-one. They just aren’t feeling that excitement and love, that ‘Joie de vivre,’ that, “jump out of bed in the morning,” feeling. There’s no “easy button” to help clients reconnect with that spark, but it does happen and we try to ensure it doesn’t go out in the future.

In my home life, my 14-year-old son is ready to get his first job. He’s still excited at the prospect of having money in his pocket, getting free food and having a legitimate excuse to stay up late. I want him to love his job, and keep that lovin’ feeling.

When was the last time you thought in your job, ‘I really hope I get a big assignment and get to work overtime, so I can stay late?’ The same thing that excited us as kids, probably doesn’t excite us now as adults, and yet, there’s still lots of lessons from when we were kids that we can apply, that help us to ground ourselves and orient us to what was great.

I want you to picture your very first job. Picture the feeling you had. That’s what we’re trying to get back to. Here’s what I learned in my first job that, when I remember and live by these lessons, I’m my most fulfilled.

Lesson #1: Relationships Matter

I figured out quickly that connection matters, and I really cared about building trusting relationships. My first job was babysitting, and you can’t fool the parents or the kids. Unless everybody loves you, you are not coming back.

Relationships matter.  Put in the work with the customer and colleagues, and you get more work.

Lesson #2: It’s All About Referrals

People often make job decisions based on referrals. Whether you are in sales, own your own business, or even looking for your next job, people are more likely to trust a referral from somebody they trust than what’s in a bio, RFP, on LinkedIn or your resume. I’ve seen folks nail an interview or RPF presentation and then one reference paints a less than glowing picture.  Suddenly, that candidate’s no longer in the running.

Lesson #3: You Can’t Fake It

Kids are amazing ‘BS’ barometers. Somehow as adults, we seem to lose our detector and stop trusting our instincts. One of the most important things about your first job is to show up ‘authentic’; if you think that’s too ‘soft’ or ‘fluffy’ a term, try to think about a time you just knew someone didn’t have the goods. If you didn’t listen to the warning signs, you probably lived to regret your decision. And please be sure to invest the time helping others to see your greatness.

Lesson #4: Say Something Out of Your Depth

The other thing I learned about my first job was, when you are out of your depth, it’s better to say something…and sooner rather than later. As adults, we often feel we need to keep it to ourselves. That’s one of the reasons we’re not excited about our jobs anymore. We need to work harder, take on more, redouble our efforts — ‘Okay, yes, I’ll take that project. I’ll do it off the corner of my desk.’ ‘I’ll take that promotion and figure out how to do it.’ All the while not asking for help or even mentorship. We spend so much of our time doubting ourselves and playing catch-up.

In actual fact, as a kid trying to get that job, for example, babysitting for a family of 8 kids, we would say, “I can’t do it alone. I’m going to need to bring a friend with me.” We have to be able to know where our limitations are. Advocating to spend time with a mentor, hiring a coach, getting more direction, or scaling back temporarily are all ways we can ask for help when we’re stretching; if someone doesn’t feel you deserve support, is that the right place for you?

Lesson #5: Don’t get Taken Advantage Of

Finally, know when you are being taken advantage of. As a new babysitter, I had a few clients who would come home late, time and time again. Eventually my parents intervened, saying, “It’s a school night. You are not going to be there until midnight!” That gave me the cue that I could assert myself rather than continue to put up with broken promises and unreliable people.

As adults, no wonder we are no longer excited about our jobs anymore when so many of us are consistently feeling like people are taking advantage of us. What is the worst that would happen if we set some ground rules, renegotiated our contract, or drew a healthy line in the sand? Maybe it’s not a risk you’re willing to take, or, maybe it is…

What can you do about it right now so that you love your job again? Which of these five lessons applies to your current work situation?

And I’m curious, what were your lessons from your first job? What’s important to remember, right now, here, wherever you are in your career or your business? Please comment and reply!

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Be well and be great!

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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