Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Career Enrichment
04/28/21 - Shari Santoriello

I learned a few new things from colleagues this week. This sentence in and of itself does not seem out of place. Here’s the rub: I am an older worker. And the things I learned this week are all from younger colleagues. Some of my closer-to-my-age colleagues would tell me that it is unlikely I could have learned anything of value from these “kids”. They are wrong, so very wrong. An old dog can still learn new tricks.

I’m glad they are wrong. I learned great stuff, valuable life lessons. And I am grateful I did! 

Lessons I Learned

Things involving setting healthy boundaries, learning that ‘no’ is a complete and positive sentence, how to advocate for myself and reset my expectations of myself and others. (Check out Coach Kristin’s webinar about Setting Healthy Boundaries.)

While being an older worker means I bring valuable experience and historical perspective to the table, it doesn’t mean it is the only experience or the only perspective.

“This is the way we’ve always done it” is one of the most dangerous phrases in a dynamic environment. The ability to be adaptable, to learn and grow is invaluable in the workplace. Staying attached to processes because they worked in the past often leads to a stall, and further down the line, being inefficient and unproductive.  

Getting “a fresh perspective” is equally important. It does not mean changing the time of a meeting, it means changing the scope of a meeting or even getting rid of a non-productive meeting totally. It means opening your mind (and abilities) to approaching something from the other side — or changing a belief that has been ingrained for so long.

“Good work ethic” doesn’t mean always saying ‘yes’. It also doesn’t always mean saying ‘no’. It means evaluating each choice and seeing if it aligns with your goals, both in and out of the workplace. Yes, including your personal goals is important while you are making decisions. It helps you do things with integrity and supports your whole self.

Reframe What Measuring Success Looks Like

I recently saw this meme about measuring success. This is the top half:

And it resonated with me. It didn’t look or feel inclusive of the rest of my life, but it did look like what I had been taught for most of my career. And it never felt particularly comfortable, but now felt totally constricting! 

Then I saw the bottom of the meme…This felt more comfortable, felt more natural. More reflective of how I wanted my professional and personal life to look and feel.

And what my younger colleagues had been talking about became crystal clear. 

Healthy boundaries, self-care and level-setting expectations all sound like trendy buzzwords, but they are not. They are critical parts to being a contented, fulfilled worker, NO — whole person! (Get more tips on wellness when you’re stressed at work here.)

What I Changed

Implementing the lessons I learned means I have since said ‘no’, and not felt guilty; changed my availability without feeling I had to justify why; and even switched when I do some of my work, realizing that no one cares if I do it during 9 am – 5 pm or at 11 pm at night, as long as it is high quality and down in a timely fashion, AND I read a “for fun” book — what a relief!

Whether you are an old dog or new, you can still learn new tricks! Leaning into colleagues, mentors or getting a coach is a great way to enhance your current skills and learn how to see things from new perspectives. Whether you need support in wellness, career, life or leadership, ALV has a coach that can connect with you. These amazing coaches are the very same colleagues who helped this old dog learn some new, valuable tricks. And I am grateful.

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