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  • Ann Werner

Good bye, Uni. Hello, World

It was a lovely way to start my working year – chatting to graduate asset managers on the transition between university and work place!

Garnering their energy was refreshing as they sat open eyed and cautious, possibly unsure of implementing their years of academic knowledge, yet still possessing the calm of assured millennials.

It’s an important transition, and best managed integrally where each new employee brings with him/her, not only academic qualifications, but personality, particular strengths, work ethic, (or not yet!), an ability to work in a team, and in a particular environment.

It’s an opportunity to learn that one’s career trajectory is unlikely to be linear, but more like Tom Freston quotes: “…a winding path of missteps, luck and vigorous work. … and it is almost always a clumsy balance between the things you try to make happen and the things that happen to you.”

And hence the work place is often but a microcosm of Life itself. The title of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ speaks to this in detail in the content of the book, yet the title briefly, explains it all. Despite all our efforts in structuring a life that we choose and want, what will come our way, comes our way, and living the good life is about learning ways to manage this. It’s about adopting a necessary resilience; it’s about showing grit and determination, not forgetting to take the time to learn from the events that have come to mold us.

This particular transition is possibly the first time when intra and inter personal skills are scrutinized and where character is put to the test. New employees don’t get to choose their teams. This is not a friendship group that you can drift in and out of. This group of people is pivotal to team, department, and company success; careers depend on a willingness to engage with the process of growth as each team member jostles for her/his place in the sun.

I find that the concept of Ubuntu is especially useful when working with teams – “I am because you are”. (When I chafe against your ruggedness and begrudge your alleged character flaw, I have an opportunity to dig deep into my irritation and to see why I am triggered and what it is about me that is causing the malaise). Successful relationships require engagement from all parties; relationships are dynamic and learning to accept and work with your part often enables a deeper understanding, easier connection and more effective communication.

Indeed, transitioning from student to employee requires tapping into responsibility – the ability to respond: to personal needs, the needs of colleagues and the needs of the organization. Tapping into one’s value system is also vital at this stage. What do I stand for? What won’t I compromise? And as such one’s integrity and authenticity may be rolled around and squeezed, pushed and nurtured into a respectful refinement.

It’s a time of discovery when steep learning curves measure up to camaraderie and new connections; where years of burning the midnight oil are vindicated by making the link between theoretical knowledge and actual implementation; it’s about shaping who you choose to be in the work place, living your dream and acting out your intention; it’s a new start to stand up for who you uniquely are and who you ever wished to become.

It’s about living fully into Joseph Cambell’s quote: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are”, but in stark and necessary contrast too (because I like a bit of ‘edge’), it’s also about what Joss Whedon says: “Remember to be yourself. Unless you suck”.

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