Recently, I was the recipient of some much-needed wisdom: your career does not define you. Those words coming from a dear friend struck such a chord that I felt it necessary to write about them during my lament of Corporate America vs. The Working Parent.
Over the weekend, while reflecting on those same words, I came to the realization that for many, many people, their careers do define them. Our military servicemen and women, first responders, doctors, teachers, pastors, chefs, bakers, yoga instructors…just a few of the careers that define people I know. And that’s not a bad thing; it’s wonderful for others to know you as the one who saves lives, bakes phenomenal scones or educates tomorrow’s world leaders. Even though we are more than our careers, it’s evident that in some fields, what we do can have a lasting impact on the world around us on a daily basis.
But what if you’re not a firefighter? Or a nurse? Or a Marine? What if you just have a career that you love, but lacks the same enthusiastic response others receive? Does it matter any less?
I have been an insurance agent for 11 years; nearly my entire working life (for those of you doing math, I started working when I was 12, obviously). It’s not the career I planned, but I can tell you that without a doubt, I am happy with my decision to be in this field and that each and every day, I love what I do (with the exception of the normal corporate grief).
The idea of risk assessment, of helping others understand their assets and coverage needs, of finding markets for a particularly difficult property. It’s a challenge each and every day, but one that I look forward to completing, kind of like the NY Times crossword puzzle (which I have yet to complete…) This career has been rewarding, even if I’m not helping to establish world peace.
But if I’m being entirely honest, I would have to admit that for a period of time I felt inadequate when standing in a room full of folks who worked in ministry, or teachers, or nurses. You knew the fruits of their labor just by knowing what they did for a living; in the corporate world, it isn’t as obvious. In fact, if there’s anything I’ve learned from the responses of others, it’s that we who have chosen a corporate path have our own stigma surrounding us, most closely associated with the Wall Street crash of 2007. Not many folks get the warm fuzzies when talking about Corporate America. But I love it, regardless…because Corporate America does not define me.
Several years ago, I was speaking with a client who was also a recent widow. Her husband had always handled their insurance matters, and because of this, she felt completely helpless when he passed. She came to the office and I sat with her; reviewing each and every policy, discussing coverages, helping her to better understand what she had. When we were done, she thanked me for my help…and I felt it: warm fuzzies.
I asked her if I could pray for her; the joy was visible in her eyes, and the gratitude was evident in her smile. It was the first time in my corporate life that I’d been given the opportunity to help someone in a way that wouldn’t just rebuild their home if it was lost; I was given the opportunity to help in a way that would build someone up, encourage them, and maybe even plant seeds for this same love to be paid forward.
I realized that even if, in my work, I don’t always find the opportunity to change someone’s life, I do have the ability to connect with people in a deeper way. An insurance policy might open the door for conversation, or it might be the blessing they need 15 years from now, should we ever experience another monster hurricane. I’m not certain of what each interaction will bring, but I do know that I have found myself becoming open and available to talk more, and even more importantly, to listen more.
What you do matters, regardless of what it is. Your daily interactions have the potential to share love, happiness, joy, hope, grace, forgiveness. Your words have the remarkable ability to be the exact thing someone needed.
You did not arrive to your current spot by chance; you are here for a reason. Be open to it.
Make it a great week,