In her new book Woke At Work, Joy Omoregie’s tackles the question: “Can you really have the career of your dreams without letting your personal passions, friends and family fall by the wayside?”
The following is an extract taken from Joy Omoregie’s new career development book Woke At Work: Strategies to navigate the workplace and progress at pace.
Remember that your family and friends are very important. It is very easy to take them for granted as you get busy with the pressures of work. Be intentional about letting them know that you care. Make a list of people you need to check in with and tick it off. At busy times, a message, or a short call to say “hello” makes a real difference. They are quick gestures that let your loved ones know that though you are busy, you are still thinking of them.
A few years into my corporate career, I landed in a situation where I was directly working for a very senior leader, many levels higher than me. She had a high-pressure role and everyone working directly with her was under pressure as a result.
This manager was so driven, so impressive and though working for her was extremely fast paced and demanding, I also viewed it as a great development opportunity. I definitely had an accelerated learning journey, having to think faster and work smarter. The work was very strategic to the business area, and I became very committed to my manager’s success.
To manage the workload, I worked later and later, and over time began to miss events and social gatherings after work. The late-night working slid into needing to work some weekends too. I started missing key family occasions, fun moments, even church. Over time, my focus gradually shifted to just being available at all times to support when required – day, night, during the week or weekend.
Working in this way, I became quite detached from my core person and almost lost myself. I remember one extremely busy period, when to my utter surprise, this manager asked me a non-business-related question – how my weekend was. By that time, I had programmed myself to have all her facts at the front of my mind, so I was ready whenever she spoke. In no way was I expecting a question about me or my weekend. In the moment, my mind went blank. I even lied, GOD forgive me, just making up an imaginary weekend that I would have previously enjoyed. In reality, I had probably just been working, stressing about things expected for Monday, and trying to squeeze in time with family before catching up on sleep!
“At every stage of your career, keep your personal goals, personal passions, hobbies and side hustles alive.”
Sounds unbelievable but I truly became consumed by work in that role. That was my reality for a season, and I include it as a warning to you that it can happen. Especially in the early part of your career, when working with a very senior manager feels so amazing and like a huge privilege. Even if it is a great growth opportunity, it is so important to strike a healthy balance between work and rest.
It is critical to carve out time for the things and people outside of work that enhance your life and wellbeing. Managers in demanding roles, dependent on hardworking and reliable people are also unlikely to spot when you are overworked and stressed, so you need to look after yourself. Nobody can do this for you. Set your limits and know when to switch off for rest and recharging – away from your work.
It is true that many jobs will have very pressurised moments, with responsibilities and tasks that really do have major consequences if they are not delivered carefully and to a high standard. So, of course, always take your job seriously; do your best, operate with integrity – doing what you know deep-down is the right thing to do. Always act responsibly. Those things are all important to focus on while at work but bear in mind that you have a life that is bigger than your job. Just keep the ‘important but not urgent’ aspects, like a strong family and social network, in your focus and list of priorities. Real time and intention are needed to maintain these valuable support systems.
In the office environment do your work but don’t feel you have to be glued to your desk. I spent a long time afraid to get up from my desk as I thought it was looked upon badly. But managers want to see that you are meeting with your customers, colleagues, taking healthy breaks and are interested in what is happening beyond your immediate work. Taking a break or putting a catch-up into your calendar to connect with your colleagues over a beverage is healthy. It is better to develop relationships and friendships in work than to simply be acquainted with your desk.
Remain human. You are working with people, don’t get so consumed in work or battle mode that you can’t see when someone genuinely needs a coffee break, or to have a chat or just to share a load. It can be so easy to go into self-preservation mode and making sure that you are doing all you need to do to stay ahead, just remember that you are surrounded by many people just like you. The intentional “How are you doing? How is it going?” and listening for a response, shows care and consideration. It doesn’t take much to do but can make a big impact.
At the end of the day, it is a job that you will do for a season and work will always need to be done. It is also a time in your life for you to enjoy as far as possible and create a positive impact through your work and contact with colleagues and managers.
Be curious about different areas of work and lookout for new opportunities. Continue learning and don’t get closed into just one thing, one area or type of work. Getting comfortable can cause you to get stuck in a role and take away years, without you knowing it. A few months can become, a few years and then huge chunks of your life can get consumed. Time you could have used to do those things you dreamt of. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable because you are pushing yourself to achieve more of your potential.
At every stage of your career, keep your personal goals, personal passions, hobbies and side hustles alive. Don’t let those things fall away – nurture them even whilst working in your roles.