Work Hard. Talk Hard. It Pays Off.

20-somethings get a bad rap for seeking fulfillment rather than fetching coffee and “paying their dues”. I’ve worked with so many young people who defy that stereotype and I know many 20-somethings are tired of hearing it. Some of it just may be generational bias. Today’s “I remember when we had to get coffee and send faxes to get a job” was yesterdays, “I remember when we walked five miles to school”. But the world has changed and when people see little reward in staying at a company they seek rewards for staying at all…so it’s more important than ever for a job to be personally fulfilling. If the company isn’t going to do it, they have to do it for themselves. Turns out, working hard is the best route to self-fulfillment.

Of the 40-somethings I spoke with who got the most reward from work… it wasn’t from being at a company a long time or getting pats on the back, it was from their own hard work and feeling of achievement from doing a great job. at the same time, if you are working hard don’t think it will speak for itself.  Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you are doing a good job. Work hard at doing a good job and then don’t be shy about talking about it.

Here’s what a few 40-something women have learned about working hard and what they got from it:

Don’t expect instant gratification. It’s a relationship not an electronic interaction…

“Consider that maybe it’s okay to work hard to get what you want. There is no delayed gratification anymore. If I want to go buy something, I go buy it. If I want to call someone or email them, it’s right in my hands. If I want to watch a movie, I dial it up on the computer. But those aren’t relationships. A career is a relationship. So I think it’s trying to consider that maybe it’s okay to work hard to get what you want. Don’t feel entitled, just because you got a college degree and now you have your masters by age 24. Apply yourself. – 40-something, working mom, Los Angeles

Doing your best builds confidence

“Achievement and how you judge your won achievement is success. Work hard and  do your best at all times. From your 20s on, whatever you are doing do it the best you can. This is what gives you empowerment. It initially comes from within.” – 20-something, documentary producer, LA and NYC

and gets you to the next thing (even if you don’t see it right away)

“If you find something that you want to do or are on the path to doing that, you have to work harder than anybody else to get it. You need to establish yourself where you are and make it your priority. It shouldn’t just be a summer job mentality. ”  — 40-something, retired executive, mom, Chicago

“If you get into a good company but the job you are in isn’t your ideal job, consider if there are other couple jobs within the company that are more your speed before jumping. Most companies are beginning to reward loyalty more because they don’t see a lot of loyalty. Turnover for any company, even if they end up getting someone better, still involves downtime and loss of revenue. Not all companies — so you have to observe what is going on in the organization. It’s not a bad idea to work really hard at something to prove yourself, even if you hate it, to get to that next thing you want.” — 40-something, working mom, recruits and trains 20-somethings, Los Angeles

And most importantly, working hard gives you something to talk about. Speak up:

“I think a lot of women don’t want to say they’re good at something. They’re afraid they’re going to come off as “Oh she’s so full of herself.” When you’ve worked hard on something I would like to believe you could say I’m really good at my job without being accused of ‘Who the hell does she think she is?’ I think I’ve earned it and I wish I had felt that earlier in my career. I think in our twenties some of us still have all these doubts about ourselves or we just don’t own the things that we’re good at. If you’ve earned it, own it. – 40-something, business owner, NYC


“I work with groups of younger women who are intimidated. You don’t want to tout your own accomplishments and then you get overlooked. Meanwhile the guy who sits next to you is like ‘Hey boss, I did this over the weekend.’ And people are like ‘Wow he’s really a hard working. He is great.’ The women’s work may be better but women are more team players and the men are more about ME and it pays off.” – 40-something, mom, investment banker, Connecticut




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