Monday, April 11, 2011

When you become an object lesson

I received one of the nicest honors I have ever received on Friday.

Marian University's chapter of the Sigma Beta Delta honor society for business, management and administration inducted me as its yearly honorary member.

Given the previous honorary members, whom people in business in the Fond du Lac area have heard of, I was, quite frankly, blown away when I was told I was receiving membership. I am more honored than I can say to be included in an organization that includes these ideals:
Sigma: Wisdom, "knowledge gained over time, analyzed and used with discernment."
Beta: Honor, for those "held in esteem, considered to be trustworthy, and admired by others because they live a life that is worthy of such recognition."
Delta: "The pursuit of meaningful aspirations," because "goals without action are no more fulfilling than action without goals."

This sounds to me (an Eagle Scout from 30 years ago) like the Boy Scouts. That may not be an accident.

The students who were inducted (along with one faculty member) neither sought nor asked for the advice of someone who, uh, has been in the workplace since before most of them were born. But during the ceremony (which included honors for other students in Marian's School of Business), I concluded that my work experience, and particularly my present situation, presents (at lest) four lessons for those about to head into the workforce, and hopefully into business.
#1A: At some point in your professional career, you will make mistakes. That includes, but goes beyond, the sorts of things for which correction items are placed in publications. It has occurred to me in the past couple of weeks (truthfully, before that) that I made a mistake by leaving Marian to go back to Marketplace. However ...
#1B: ... since you can't go back and undo decisions you've made, it is futile to dwell on what may seem like was a bad move on your part. Since none of us religious know why our lives go as they have, do and will, how do we know if we were supposed to make the decisions we've made?
#2: Whether you work for the greatest employer ever, or have the best idea or product in your particular field, or are in the greatest work situation you could conceive of, nothing lasts forever. Life Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post were tremendous magazines that didn't make it into the 21st century. Your employment situation could end by (A) the business' closing or (B) spinning off your corner of the company or (C) being purchased by a larger company that decides to replace you with one of its people, in which case you will be moving on, like it or not.  (The professor who was inducted with me said he was told two great pieces of advice: to keep six months' expenses as savings, and to keep your bags psychologically packed.)
#3: Given the reality of #1 and #2, you will therefore be defined by what you decide to do after #2. My father worked for the same bank (though it had multiple owners) for 40½ years. I have worked for five different employers (one twice) in barely half that time. Statistically speaking, the aforementioned #2 is likely to happen to you more than once in your professional life.

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