Following an Executives in Residence meeting with Mary-Jo Jacobi Jephson at the University of Leeds a while back, I was left in a somewhat pensive mood.
Being a figure of quite some importance in the business world, I listened to Mrs. Jacobi Jephson with great respect. It would appear she had achieved much in her life and the fact that she took the time to speak to myself and others labelled as the “future generation of business” was commendable.
Yet I must admit that the longer she spoke, and the more she revealed about her life, the more I felt I wanted very little to do with her world.
Her experiences were varied, her achievements admirable and for all intents and purposes she was the epitome of what a successful businesswoman should be.
She would travel widely, meet people from all strata of society and played a key part in the decision making processes of companies who had the size and power to truly change the world.
Yet as she spoke to us about cultural differences, performance reviews and work satisfaction in her position, the questions I couldn’t get out of my head then and now are these: Does she love what she does? Does she like who she is? Is she happy with the way she is leading her life?
Towards the end of her talk I questioned her on how she balances work and a personal life in her position. She gave me a candid answer which went something like this:
You don’t. If you’re not willing to take the call at 3am telling you that 5 men have died after going down an oil rig and lighting up a cigarette, then you have no business being in an executive leadership position. You can always find a job, but companies don’t pay you a lot of money for doing nothing.
Now I can not speak for Mrs. Jacobi Jephson in any way, nor would I ever attempt to do so, but I believe that her willingness to commit to such an imbalance in the work-life relationship must come from somewhere.
A love of the job? A desire to achieve? A desire for money? Who knows. What I can say, based on personal experience, is that you can always find something to love about what you do.
So when you start something new or despair in something old, finding what it is that you love (and what it is your job makes you love about you) is a great way forward. I’m sure Mrs. Jacobi Jephson would agree.
Personally, I’ve had more than ten different jobs in my 27 years and whilst some jobs may have been more prestigious, more useful and better paid than others every single one of my jobs helped build the person I am today.
When I was 18, working at TESCO checkouts, I had an old man tell me that he loved coming to my till because he liked the way I always smiled at him when he came by. Him telling me that taught me first hand that attitude plays a big part in shaping people’s reactions to me and one of the biggest things I now love about me is my ability to stay optimistic.
When I was 24, teaching English in South Korea, I had a co-teacher tell me that an exam change I had implemented had likely been instrumental in three students’ applications being accepted to foreign language high schools – the norm had been one. Her telling me that reinforced the idea that change is good and that when you have the opportunity to implement change, even if there is some uncertainty toward it, it can pay off big time. One of the things I now love about myself is my tendency to seek continuous improvements in myself, processes and others.
When I was 27 I accepted a job in Business, an area I’ve always been a little hesitant to enter. I have been given the opportunity to learn, travel, meet people, develop new skills, question my willingness to go above and beyond and re-evaluate my priorities and circumstances. One of the things I now love about myself is my willingness to try new things even if they challenge what I believe to be true about myself.
These are just a few examples, but they serve to remind that although not every job will be a life calling, every job will nonetheless add to you. It will teach you something new, it will tell you about yourself, it will help define what is important to you and it should help you find a way to be the person you want to be.
So, based on that I urge you… love what you do, be who you love and don’t forget to thank those around you who support you in doing so.