11 Lessons Learned from My Coworkers
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
This post was written a few hours after I turned in my 9-year old badge as an Engineer at Imperial Irrigation District and was posted nearly a month later when I finally found the time between training, traveling, and tanging tiapers. Life is busy. And I love it!
Today was my last day and it was so bittersweet. It was exciting. It was emotional. I did so many routine things for the last time. But a tremendously big thing happened that doesn’t happen every day. I crossed the line of business formalities to share love with my work family.
How often do we get the opportunity to comfortably express our love towards our friends and colleagues? Is it just retirement parties and funerals? I wish I could share how much I love all of my friends as often as I tell my husband and kids, but no doubt it would come across disingenuous and awkward.
Nonetheless, I loved the people I worked with. All of them have a special place in my heart.
I worked at IID for 9 years. I came in fresh out of college at 22. I was single and a bit wild. I met my husband on my first day, and by 25 I got married. At 28 I had my first daughter, and at 29 I had my second. At 30, I walked into work, shocked to see my office decorated with birthday banners. And at 31, I hugged and said good bye over and over with a mouth full of cake and root beer floats.
I know I’ll still see them around in grocery stores and at farmer’s markets, but it won’t be the same.
They’ve watched my kids grow, but they also watched me grow and they’ve been there through so many ups and downs and had such a part in shaping who I am.
So now that I bring this part of my life to a full stop, let me share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned from the folks I practically lived with 9 hours a day, for 9 years:
1: From my officemate (who later became my husband) I learned to stop asking others for the things I could do myself. It’s a trap I fell into in college. There weren’t a lot of girls in our classes, so professors and male classmates were quick to help and I got lazy. It only hurt myself. It meant I didn’t test as well because I hadn’t practiced getting to solutions on my own and at work it translated to being needy or unintelligent. If you need something from the printer, stand up and go get it. If you need an old document, search your own emails and files. And heavens, please proof read everything you send so someone else doesn’t have to!
2: From my most pivotal mentor, I learned to always be one step ahead, prepared to answer any question that might get thrown your way. You'll look prepared, smart, honest, and confident. 3: You can be confrontational without being overly aggressive or emotional. And 4: Look for a person's best skills and highlight it. Because no one is useless if you can encourage them to work within their strengths.
5: From my work mom I learned to never be lazy. Get your stuff done, on time or early, and no excuses, because no one cares. And 6: If you want to be particular, then do it yourself. Tough love and good advice. I wasted a lot of time tinkering with wordsmithing and formatting before I realized I needed to either shut up and do it myself or shut up and let it be, but regardless, I needed to shut up.
7: From my carefree supervisor: have fun and make genuine friendships. Work is so much more enjoyable when your friendships cross paths with your leisure time. I made several life-long friends from work, and look forward to all the lunch dates, birthday parties, and camping trips in our future.
8: From another I learned not to care about who gets the credit. When you or your team succeeds, the company succeeds, and that’s the real end goal. I’ve come to believe that regardless of who gets the credit, eventually hard workers are recognized and rise to the top.
9: Yet another coworker showed me that if you notice someone’s hard work not being recognized, then pass on the kudos to the people that matter. Everyone wins. Hard workers get promoted. Slackers fall between the cracks. And you look like a team player.
10: Perhaps the hardest lesson I learned, and one that led me to this life-altering moment: be happy where you’re at. If you’re spending most of your time doing something that doesn’t make you happy, or isn’t making you feel fulfilled, then figure out how to change your perspective, or move on. So many people, especially from older generations, get stuck living in a routine that leaves them angry and unmotivated. Find your passions and figure out how to make a living while doing what you love.
I find joy in encouraging others and watching them succeed, so I’ll take this new opportunity to focus on the potential successes of my family. I want to encourage my husband to feel respected, healthy, and loved, so he can reach his potential in every faucet of his life. And I want to raise my girls to be strong women. Wise enough to lead, humble enough to listen, brave enough to speak, and compassionate enough to love.
11. But the most crucial lesson of all...
Never microwave tuna in the common room.