Thursday, December 17, 2015

Until We Meet Again

There is this great quote that sometimes pops into my LinkedIn feed:

“Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them…Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.” – Simon Sinek in Start with Why

Sinek is a smart man (I’m not just saying that because we share the same alma mater, Brandeis University) and that sentiment is so true…and so lost on most employers today.

When I started in the working world, I thought I would work someplace for my entire life. My uncle had, my dad had, my mom had. That was, until 2 out of 3 didn’t have those jobs anymore. Loyalty in the workplace, as I would soon find out from life experiences, was a thing of the past.

But I’m not a total pessimist in this subject matter because of one company: Astron Solutions.

Let me back up a bit and say how I got here. It’s a bit convoluted.

Through my first three summers of my collegiate life at Brandeis University, I had an internship at a big, international bank. For my three undergrad summers, I would intern there and I thought that would happen for a fourth summer in between my undergraduate and graduate years—and then I would get hired there right out of college and go on to work there for 50 years.

Except, at the last second, they didn’t have an internship for me that last summer. I had some other good interviews but no offers. So at the last second I scrambled to find a summer role. I ended up at a local real estate company thinking that would be good experience to learn about real estate (at least that’s how they sold it).

Boy was I wrong. My first day was spent doing a whole lot of nothing. The second day was promised to be more exciting, and that ending up meaning that I got a chance to use the copier. Except that I couldn’t use the copier without instructions on how to use the copier and multiple check-ins. 22 years old, about to earn a Masters degree, and I had to have multiple check-ins to make sure that I was using the copier correctly. It wasn’t that I was an unmotivated person (I actually think of myself as highly self-motivated—even to a fault) but to say that this role was going to be inspiring me was a huge stretch.

I decided to take a walk at lunchtime (to decide how I could possibly do this any longer) when my cell phone rang. It was Jennifer Loftus, the Founding Partner and National Director of Astron Solutions. We had the best interview of my entire life a few weeks before and I had been bummed not to hear back.

“I wanted to offer you a Summer internship,” she said. “Hopefully you didn’t take another role, though!”

“Actually I did take another role,” I started to say as I heard Jennifer start to sound upset, so I quickly stammered, “but I was thinking of quitting anyways so this is perfect timing!”

“Okay…” Jennifer said. “I’m sure there is some story here that you’ll have to tell me. Looking forward to you starting.”

I walked back into the office where the person who “taught me” how to use the copier was waiting to scold me for trying to copy too many pages at once.

“We’re going to have to go over the directions again,” she started to say.

“Actually, I’m sorry to let you know that today is going to by my last day,” I said. “I received another offer that is more in line with what I want to do this Summer.”

“Well,” she said, “if you’re going to have so much trouble using the copier, I’m not sure that you’re the best fit here anyways.”

With that very weird exit, I got a chance to join Jennifer and the rest of Astron Solutions.

At the end of the summer internship with Astron, I was bummed as I thought my time there was done. I had a great summer and felt like I had been a big contributor to Astron but like the bank before (and like many jobs to come), I thought my time had come to an end.

But Astron had other plans for me. How would I like to continue working for them on some of their marketing or social media material? For someone who was about to become a poor college student for another year, this was more than enticing financially. But, more significantly, for someone who didn’t have a ton of faith in the working world, this gesture was really important to restore that faith.

So for almost 10 years, I got to be a part of the Astron’s tight-knit family, despite the fact that I was, at best, a distant cousin. I got invited to every holiday party. I got all the company updates. I even got to take part in their supplemental insurance plan (and walked into Aflac in a different role many years later with that fact to help close them as a client). Despite the fact that I didn’t work a day in their office in 9 years, I always felt like I was a part of the team.

That wasn’t because of some fantasy world I lived in—it was because the team at Astron Solutions made me feel that way. When I showed up at the holiday party, it was like I just worked in a remote office. In fact, I had better treatment at Astron than a job where I was actually a remote employee. I was inspired to do a good job not because of some pep talk or seminar I went to, or because I had some financial carrot dangling in front of me; I was inspired because I wanted to help contribute to this incredible group.

And because of that will to help, I didn’t want to outstay my welcome. Now in my fifth job since that internship summer, I’ve come to the point where my primary job made doing this amazing secondary job pretty much impossible.

So it’s with great sadness that this serves as my official notice that I am resigning my role as Blogmaster and Social Media Specialist at Astron Solutions. I want to thank Mike and Jennifer for almost 10 great years of employment, which extended to Brendan and John who provided 10 years of warm smiles and laughs, and lastly to Cassandra who has been the first smiling face I see when I stop by for the past few years (and provides your great Astronology articles). You five have built a fabulous organization and you’re all lucky to be a part of it—I think my biggest sadness now is that I won’t officially be part of this family going forward.

So with that I leave with great thanks that Jennifer called me back that one day (and that we’ve been able to keep this going so long). An extra callout to Jennifer for serving as a mentor, friend, and overall calming influence over the past 10 years through my other 5 jobs. Thanks to all the blog readers and everyone who helped contribute along the way. It’s been very educational and a ton of fun.

Until we meet again.

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