As A Young Professional, How Do You Reflect On And Evaluate Your Career?

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Thriving Magazine and was written by AJ Eckman, Marketing and Development Manager at the Lancaster Recreation Commission. Read the entire Thriving Magazine online here.

With summer vacations in full swing and autumn on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to reflect, make positive changes and better yourself. Whether you’re starting school, prepping for the “busy season” or revisiting your new year’s resolutions, being in an empowering and motivating work environment that complements your personal life should be front of mind. After all, the average American spends about 1/3 of their life in the workplace.

Over the last few years and especially in 2020, it’s become clear that the typical workday has become anything but. Add friends, family, invitations and obligations and achieving a healthy work-life balance seems almost impossible.

Progressive local companies are adding benefits such as flexible work schedules, remote work days, unlimited vacation, paid sabbaticals, pet-friendly offices, a business casual dress code and on-site amenities such as snack stations and fitness centers or paid gym memberships. From my seat at the table, these companies are not just getting ahead of the inevitable workplace culture shift but are also doing it with employees in mind. When employers put employees first, it’s extremely likely they will be happier—and when employees are happy, their clients are happy. Shareholders, stakeholders and decision-makers in the board room also reap the financial benefits of increased customer loyalty and satisfaction. While a fair and livable wage is paramount right now, work-life balance, benefits and perks are also considerations. The responsibility of company leaders is to foster a welcoming atmosphere, but it truly has been the suggestions of valued employees that have brought many of the above ideas to life. And the reason they work? Both management and employees connect, collaborate and change course.

But it’s not just the pay, work-life balance, benefits and perks of a job. Is your employer representative of your personal and professional values? Is there diverse representation within all channels of business? How about employee recognition and professional development? While these things are often overlooked during the hiring process, they are often the frontrunners in developing employee engagement and ultimately, retention. You got the job, but how long do you want to stay?

Full disclaimer — I am 35 years of age and it’s taken me THIS LONG to figure out my true career path. For me, advocating for the children, adults and seniors of Lancaster City and Township provides me with not just a career; I enjoy what I do. I know my role within my company is making a measurable difference in the lives of those in the Lancaster community and I get to see those outcomes through my own eyes. If you aren’t able to give a similar statement about your workplace, then it may be time to assess why your work matters, how you are contributing to your community and if you are achieving that elusive ‘inner-happiness’. At the end of the day, you should be proud of your accomplishments, optimistic about your career path and above all else — enjoying what you do.

Read the entire Thriving Magazine online here.