In reference to the first part of the title of this post, I would say the answer is quite simple. Most of us work because we have to. In my case, that happened about thirteen years ago. After having the wonderful opportunity to stay home with the kids while they grew, the time came for me to get back to work and help with the expenses that were going to be part of life with tuition. I wouldn’t say that I went back to work kicking and screaming, but there was some pouting involved.
My initial reentry point was not good. I could do the job just fine, but the environment was not friendly, and nothing that I did seemed to generate the least bit of notice. I could have been doing lousy work and I think I would have gotten as much feedback as I did when I did good work. I began to wonder if that is what I should expect from a job, and that I should just be happy that I had a paycheck.
But I did start looking to see what else was available to me, and I found it. Almost twelve years ago, I started working at my current place of employment. That is where the second part of this post’s title comes from – why we stay.
I know that there are people who hate their jobs and dread going to work each day. I know that jobs are not easy to come by and that job security easily can out-trump on-the-job happiness. What I want to reflect on, however, is what it means to be committed to a place because it provides you with what you want and what you need. That is where I am, and that is why I have stayed.
This week during a lunch hour, one of my co-workers booked our conference room and invited others to gather during lunch to get a knitting lesson. When noontime came, I wandered in with my ball of yarn and found several of my mates already there. There were knitting needles on the table (that we could keep!), several different yarns, and examples of knitted items. For half an hour, we sat, chatted, and made fun of our incompetence. All the while, those who knew how to knit, helped those who did not. It was relaxed and fun. It is the kind of thing that makes me stay.
Also this week, I sent an email to one of the doctors that I work with. What I was asking tickled him and he responded with a brief note that let me know that I had made him laugh. That makes me stay.
Sometimes I teach someone how to do something. Sometimes I listen. Sometimes I plan something special. I learn from others who have skills and ideas that I do not. As often as I can, I laugh. I accomplish goals, and I scrap goals that no longer make sense. My job is what others have set for me and what I have set for myself. It is why I stay.
In my position now, I manage several people. It was not something that came naturally to me, but as I continue to learn how to do this, I have grown in my comfort with it. One of the things that I struggle with most, is figuring out my role in making those that I manage happy – and what that means as far as them wanting to stay. I want to think everyone has a job that they get pleasure from, and that their time at work is more than just the hours that they put in and the product they produce. I want everyone to feel noticed and appreciated. But I do know that whether anyone gets all of that in a single position, will not determine their professional paths. Each day can bring opportunities or ideas that the day before did not hold.
Why I stay is because of the challenge of my work, the support of my own management, the camaraderie of my team; the opportunities for newness. When my days or weeks are bad, there are always parts of that equation that ground me. However, just as I cannot guarantee that anyone I work with with will always be there, I can’t guarantee that I will either. The reasons why I stay makes it easy to think it could happen.