I guess you could say I had an epiphany the other day. For many years, I wondered why I was not an ideal fit for corporate life. I used to be puzzled as to why other people would be rejoicing in the fact that they were celebrating 30 years at the same company. For those of you who are reading this and taking offense to my statement, that is not my intention. If you spent 30 years at the same company and truly enjoy your work, then kudos to you! I think it is great you have found your purpose in life and are doing what you love. Embrace it because what you are experiencing is an elusive experience for some of us.
My epiphany occurred the other day while I was watching the 80’s classic film, “The Breakfast Club.” When I first saw this movie, it was in the theater and I was in my second year of college. Yes, I know, I just gave away my age. However, I was struck by how relevant the film is to my life in 2016. As I watched Molly, Judd, Michael, Emilio, and Ally cavorting in the library I realized that most of my issues with working in office environments stemmed from not enjoying high school.
Crazy, right? Please allow me to plead my case. In the “Breakfast Club” you have five categories of people that all of us encountered while attending a secondary educational institution. Molly Ringwald as Claire represented the super popular group, Judd Nelson as Bender represented the trouble maker crew while Anthony Michael Hall’s character Brian represented the geek contingent. Rounding out the cast was Emilio Estevez as Andy, the fun-loving jock and Ally Sheedy as Allison, the artistic outcast.
All of those groups are alive and well and thriving in the business world. They may not be as pronounced but they are there. To be honest, I did not enjoy my time in high school. I have not been to a reunion nor do I wax nostalgic about the “good old days.” I did not particularly enjoy being confined to classrooms from 8 am to 3 pm. While I understand the need for schedules, I did not exactly relish having my day planned out for me.
In the 80’s we did not have home schooling. We did not have the option to choose our curriculum. If we were struggling in algebra, too bad, we could not drop the dreaded subject like college. Nor could we opt out of attending a pep rally even if sports were not our thing. Does any of this sound familiar? Wait for it, wait for it….
Bingo! That was exactly how I felt in the various jobs I have held throughout my life. It was just like high school except the names, faces, and places had changed. Every institution that I had worked for had the “Breakfast Club” groups. The cheerleaders and student council members were replaced with the co-workers that were always involved in every activity at work. These individuals were on various committees, they always won awards, and they always associated with the right people.
The meeting derailers were the new Benders. These were the folks who always made sure that a 30-minute scheduled meeting turned into an hour with their questions on subjects that were already covered or by regaling people with their personal stories that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.
The geeks to me were not the IT professionals but the employees who were found on reporting teams. These spreadsheet warriors made it their personal missions to blow up email with their enormous Excel reports filled with thousands of tabs and complex formulas designed to give statistics that only Einstein could fathom. These groups were also the ones responsible for creating every PowerPoint presentation on earth with charts, graphs and other witchcraft that only succeeded in transforming those 30 minute meetings into hours so that people could decipher their Da Vinci codes.
Team managers were the new jocks who would use the aforementioned statistics like box scores in order to coach their respective employees. Regardless of whether or not they believed in every organizational policy, they had to put their game faces on and make their subordinates rally to the cause.
If I had to categorize myself, I guess I would have to say that in my working life, I fell in to the outcast group with Ally Sheedy. Not really feeling like I belonged but just needing to get a paycheck. Keeping my head down and doing what was necessary so that I did not get noticed.
So, what is my takeaway from my experience in the world of business? Be your own person, do not try to fit into a group or be made to feel as if you need to become someone you are not. If you enjoy working in office settings and that is who you are, terrific! I wish you nothing but success and happiness. For those of you who feel like you are stuck in that high school library on a Saturday morning, just remember you are not alone. Believe in who you are and the talents that you have to offer. Give yourself permission to find your passion. It is never too late.