Challenge yourself to rethink what is essential for strengthening your wellbeing and your career say Julia Schmidt and Evon Wood
Over the last three years, I (Julia) have invested a significant amount of time building the Facebook community Organizational Health and Wellbeing for Assistants. My motivation for this endeavor was the positive response I received following a presentation I gave on this topic at a conference for Executive Assistants. I am passionate about this important issue so I knew creating this community would push me out of my comfort zone and advance my communication skills, which was one of my goals.
You may ask, why Organizational Health and Wellbeing? Well, I believe that Executive Assistants are true agents of change. We proactively build healthier workplaces, ensure that organizational health and wellbeing are on our organizations’ agendas, and dynamically create workplace strategies with our executives. Essentially, we make Organizational Health and Wellbeing our number one job.
Laura Putnam, the author of Workplace Wellness that Works, believes that creating a life that matters encompasses a range of elements; including physical, emotional, financial, social, career, community, environmental, creative, and spiritual – a truly holistic view of wellbeing! This approach can promote tangible workplace changes and encourages Assistants to embrace the role of Wellbeing Ambassadors.
We can all agree that work plays an important role in a person’s life. In fact, work is essential to wellbeing. Gallup research shows that career wellbeing is one of the most important elements in overall wellbeing. In essence, we all want to do what we enjoy and what enhances our and others’ wellbeing. When we do not experience this, overall contentment diminishes in every area of our lives, and even touches those we interact with. Conversely, people with high career wellbeing are more than twice as likely to thrive, overall, and positively influence those around them.
Evon Wood is a seasoned Executive Assistant and a member of my personal Board of Directors. She also contributed to a series of interviews conducted on career wellbeing. Throughout the rest of this article, Evon and I will explore what we discovered from our interviews with several Executive Assistants.
Here are the six key questions you can ask to challenge yourself to rethink what is essential for strengthening your wellbeing and your career.
1. What if things are going wrong?
Imagine you have great social relationships, financial security, and good physical health; however, you do not enjoy your work. In this scenario, you are likely to:
Believe your job is worthless.
Be easily stressed.
Feel exhausted or physically ill.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? At the most intense of these times, you may even feel at the end of your rope as though you have lost your very identity. There are many people who have experienced this. The good news is that we have the power to change this situation and improve our wellbeing. It is all about the choices we make.
When we are engaged in activities that excite and interest us, we are rarely bored or uneasy. We have all worked late or come into the office over the weekend, because a project that we were working on held a special meaningfulness to us. In these instances, instead of feeling drained, we are energized in the act of accomplishment. We see the extra time put in as “worth it” to attain a meaningful goal. And why is that? It is because high career wellbeing comes from loving what you do – gaining new skills, building lasting relationships – developing your creativity; and from understanding that your efforts add lasting value to your organization.
Career wellbeing is how you manage your career both today and tomorrow, so that your work provides you with the resources, enthusiasm, and the opportunities to accomplish your goals.
2. Are you using your ability to choose wisely?
“Choosing wisely is fundamental, but the key for me is to be fully present, give my all, and to focus on each moment at a time,” says Paula Moio.
Having control of your life is all about choices. The intrinsic feeling that you have ownership of your life through those choices frees you to “choose right,” to determine your best actions. You choose. The difference between living “ordinarily” and living “extraordinarily” comes down to choice. You choose your responses. You choose where you focus. You choose who you are and what you will and will not stand for.
When you think about it, career wellbeing is part of each day, including our choices and the corresponding levels of fulfillment from those choices. It is directly related to the need for esteem and achievement.
Because a significant amount of our time is spent working, our careers can play an important part in defining our identities, and therefore, our work life can dramatically shape our wellbeing. We must choose wisely, as our choices will reach into every aspect of our lives and wellbeing.
Understand Your Skills and Utilize Your Strengths
One way you can affect your career wellbeing is by developing a clear understanding of your skills and how best to utilize your strengths. This will build your confidence and promote forays outside of your “comfort zone.” You will become more decisive in following your career goals, purpose, and vision. Learn to embrace your strengths. They are your career DNA!
Do weekly self-assessments
to understand how you add value; and where there are areas for performance improvement.
Review your skills set
for your current role, as well as the next role on your career ladder, craft a learning and development plan.
Build your personal Board of Directors
which is a group of people you admire and trust to offer sound advice and guidance toward good choices; and, who will aid your focus on desired goals and outcomes – giving you honest feedback and celebrating your achievements.
Leverage on your strengths.
For example, if you have a knack for writing, nurture that skill. Take some online writing courses to further develop your talent. Submit articles to magazines and blogs, add them to your LinkedIn profile, and submit them to your organization’s newsletter (if there is not one already, offer to be the first Editor in Chief and start one!).
3. Are you the leader of your career?
Michelle Gibson asserts that, “It is time to take ownership and do your part in achieving your career wellbeing. If you do not do that, who else will?”
When you truly become the leader, i.e. CEO of your career, you actively lead your development and growth. You set the direction and remain focused on the journey. This is your “job”. If you do not embrace this type of career ownership, there is no one else to do it for you. You must have a clear vision, purpose, and strategy for your career. Further, all three of these will include elemental choices affecting your wellbeing. It is up to you to be your own motivator and ambassador, and to seek out those who will encourage and support your success. Take career ownership!
Allocate time and resources to build your career strategy.
This will ensure that the path you travel is clear and leading to where you want to go.
Reach out to role models.
Follow them on social media. Attend their Webinars, trainings, and conferences. Purchase their publications. Offer to partner with them on a project that utilizes your strengths. If you build a strong rapport with one of them, ask if they would consider formally mentoring you.
Be the leader of your career wellbeing
, just as the CEO is the leader of her company. Surround yourself with the right people, commit to development and improvement throughout the journey, and continually drive toward your goals.
4. Are you passionate about growth and career development?
Be a change agent, embrace a commitment to grow and develop yourself professionally.
Fully understanding how to successfully perform your duties gives you confidence in your skills and abilities. Find ways to expand your skills set through classes, Webinars, books, articles, and blogs. Embrace a mindset of long-life learning. Consider advanced designations such as the Certified Administrative Professional, the Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence, the Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant, the Word Class Assistant, or the Professional Master for Executive Assistants. Also, research the benefits of affiliation with various professional associations.
Use networking as a tool for learning.
After the onset of COVID-19, staying connected became the worldwide mantra. Not only are we encouraged to remain virtually linked with coworkers, family, and friends; the importance of maintaining associations with our professional networks is more paramount than ever. Virtual networking has exploded, as many professionals seek to strengthen and expand their connections while they shelter in their home offices. Whether it is Cocktails & Connections, Resilience During Crisis, or any number of themed events, there are boundless opportunities to branch out and connect with professionals in areas that you have been interested in, but never had the time to fully pursue…that is, until now. So, go for it! Get advice on how to write a novel. Learn tips and tricks to boost your productivity. Gain insights into how to take your seat at the table. This is the time to focus on doing you!
5. So, what about your life away from the office?
“My life away from the office is what enables me to thrive,” says Simone White.
We need to have balance, which is the foundation for wellbeing. During her interview, Simone points out that her role at work, her team, and/or her company can change, or even disappear, overnight. Thus, her professional role cannot be her sole source of fulfillment and wellbeing. Maintaining a positive outlook, and fostering good choices outside of work, feeds her personal wellbeing. Neither is wholly separate, so neither should be depended upon to the exclusion of the other. Both nourish success and fulfillment in the other.
Our career journey encompasses both our personal and professional lives, including those who are part of both environments. Our personal choices impact our career wellbeing. Consider an Executive Assistant who decides to move from South America to Europe. How do you think this decision will impact the “whole” wellbeing of the person? For example: Learning a new language? Seeking employment in a new country? Acclimating to a different culture? Building new social and professional relationships? These are all interconnected and affect both wellbeing environments.
Pursuits that Enrich Your Life
Just as important in promoting wellbeing are mental, physical, and emotional ties to pursuits that personally enrich our lives.
Finding a hobby.
Walking, yoga, swimming, biking, painting, photography, singing, writing poetry and short stories, etc. can all have restorative benefits for your wellbeing, providing physical and mental release and promoting renewal and growth.
Supporting a charity.
What are you passionate about? Equal rights? Homelessness? Chronic diseases? The environment? Animal rights? Domestic violence? There are endless organizations in need of your support. Choose (an example of making a good choice!) one to partner with to share your treasures, your talents, and your leadership.
Being a youth mentor.
Share your life and experience with the next generation. Let them benefit from the lessons you have learned. Inspire them to discover their strengths and passions and encourage them to pursue them.
As Evon Wood states, “One of my greatest joys has been supporting the IAAP Foundation. I have the great privilege of volunteering for a nonprofit organization that supports administrative professionals throughout their careers (and beyond), from their entrance into the workplace, through to retirement.”
6. Do You Have a Work Purpose?
Our work is a good thing. It allows people to create, build, and cultivate. It also gives us myriad ways to problem-solve and innovate our world. Our careers stimulate our minds, give us a sense of purpose, and offer opportunities for collaboration and camaraderie. These all contribute to more fulfilled lives, according to Jeremy Burrows author of The Leader Assistant, and promote a sense of wellbeing. Both organizations and employees understand the importance of having a purpose and expressing it through meaningful work and connections.
Define your purpose, mission, and vision.
This will help you stay on-track in your career and guide your behaviors and choices throughout the journey.
Remember to focus on your mission each day.
Begin and end each workday by reminding yourself of your mission. Print a copy of your mission and post it where you can see it throughout the day. Or, make it your computer desktop, so that it is the first thing you see when you begin your workday and the last thing you see when you end it. Your mission is how you will achieve your objectives, and ultimately, manifest your vision.
Express who you are and share your goals.
Let your manager and coworkers know what energizes you and leads you to excel in your work. Look for ways to showcase your value add. A healthy relationship between yourself and your organization starts with a shared mission, meaning, or purpose.
“The quality of your relationships at work determines the quality of your work and your ability to succeed. A job that you enjoy brings joy to your life.” ~ Sofie Koark
Work is an essential part of life. It is the responsibility of each of us to proactively make good choices to ensure we live our best lives and give our best to others. This begins by believing in yourself, making good choices, and finding joy in the process. Now, go begin your career wellbeing journey!