When I decided to get my undergraduate degree in Marketing, I knew there was a possibility that I’d end up in Corporate America. When I got my MBA, it all but solidified this outcome. While I had long wanted to work for a small business, I was quite looking forward to the perks of working for a larger company. What I wasn’t expecting is the amount that I’ve had to sacrifice personally, in order to be successful professionally. Over the next couple of weeks I will highlight some of the areas where I’ve had to sacrifice, as well as some of the insight I’ve gained during my (short) time in Corporate America.
Sacrifice #1 – Work/Life Balance
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, work/life balance is the prioritization placed on working vs. pursuing a particular lifestyle. It differs for every person, and may not always be split equally between the two. It’s a pendulum that must be constantly evaluated.
During grad school this topic came up time and time again when talking with professionals working in Corporate America. Many didn’t have a solid recommendation for ensuring that a work/life balance was present. At the time, it seemed so simple and straightforward…you just close up shop and go home! However, as I’ve spent time in two global companies, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not easy. In fact, it’s quite hard! In order to make progress at work I (and my colleagues throughout the world) have to be flexible to meet when there’s availability to meet. At times this means early morning calls so that I can connect with someone in Europe and at others it means a late night so that I can meet with someone in Asia. In a sense, every hour of every day someone is online, working.
Further, with the invention of things like email, text messaging, instant message, and the iPhone those I work with have greater access to me during non-work hours. Fortunately, my colleagues have not abused this privilege, but the technology itself does a good enough job on its own. The nagging email count icon on my iPhone is a constant reminder that there’s work to be done.
I also realize though, that part of my issue with work/life balance I bring upon myself. I have high expectations for myself that ultimately translates into how much I invest in work. I know what it takes to survive at work, but I want to be able to excel. In order to excel, the level of service I provide to my clients, the amount of time it takes to respond to inquiries, and the quality of my work play a role in me being able to excel. In a sense, these aspects of work become my reputation.
The hard thing about it is, that once you have a reputation for something, it then becomes an expectation. So, over the past 9 months at my company, I have now allowed my co-workers and clients to expect a certain level of service and quality of work from me. Unfortunately, what it took and now takes to provide that level of work is not sustainable with my current workload.
Which brings me to where I struggle the most. I hate letting people down. While I know its human nature to do just that, I feel horrible when I do in fact let someone down. So, in order for me to regain a work/life balance I have to make choices, decisions. And sometimes, that means choosing life over work, which ultimately means that I have to readjust the expectations of my colleagues and clients. It will take time, but it’s critical to my well being as an individual.
I guess I’m thankful I’m going through this struggle early on in my career. I don’t think it gets any easier as you grow older, take on more responsibility both personally and professionally, and are spread thinner and thinner. Perhaps my wiser, more experienced friends can chime in on this one? Hopefully, I will continue to get better at finding the right balance on the pendulum of work and life; setting boundaries and being sure to take time for the part of life that takes place outside of work.