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In this article, we unpack finding meaning, purpose, and joy at work during this chapter in your career and the benefits you will glean from your efforts.
"The role of a leader is to create shared meaning." These were David Pearl's words, an engaging world-class trainer at the McKinsey&Company Hispanic/Latino Leadership Program, with whom I had the pleasure to facilitate the session on story for leaders.
The first time I heard it in 2021, Dave's statement caught my attention, and as I pondered what it meant to me, I started to reminisce about it in the various stages of my career.
What brings you meaning? Let's share.
I remember being 22 in 1991, fresh out of college, and starting my career as a computer science and economics graduate, showing up to my first full-time role as a programmer for Prudential. My purpose and what brought me meaning back then was to be the best programmer I could be. I felt there was so much to learn about the business world, leadership, and work. I surrounded myself with team members who were generous and helpful.
As a new member of the workforce, the joy and meaning of my career were about growing, learning, and building relationships and friendships.
After working for one year, my new purpose and meaning were to join the management ranks one day. So, while working full-time to gain experience, I decided to pursue my MBA degree part-time. And that's what I did for the following four years to earn an MBA in management. I was on my way, retooling to become a leader.
I began to volunteer for leadership roles, i.e., chair of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration multiple years, Sergeant at Arms for my local Toastmasters chapter, Prudential's Roseland Recreational Association board, Minority Interchange board, panelist and speaker on career panels, Inroads alumni association, mentoring, etc.
My first official leadership role manifested after graduating with my MBA in 1996 when I applied for and earned a new position as a systems manager.
As a new manager, meaning meant learning about management and leadership as much as possible.
It also meant making a difference, having an impact, solving problems, and doing the best job I could while continuing to foster relationships with new team members and stakeholders.
Ultimately, I knew that my academic goal was to earn a Ph.D. in information systems, combine my computer science background with an MBA, and use technology to solve business problems. Then in 1997, about six months after finishing the MBA, I began a master's degree in Computer Science, which was a pre-requisite for the Ph.D. Learning has always brought me joy and excitement.
In 1998, while attending graduate school at night, I looked into an opportunity to continue growing as a senior software engineer and project manager at Alliance (now named Alliance Bernstein). I feel so proud that I was able to use my MBA and take it to the next level. This new role was a tremendous change for me. Financially, it was a 30% increase in compensation, and I was moving into the asset management business—which was also a welcomed incentive. Furthermore, the work required me to liaise more with business stakeholders and manage a team. That was very exciting.
There was meaning for me to grow my leadership skills and meet new people.
Although I only remained there for a couple of years, two of my closest friends to date were teammates I met at Alliance. We played intramural volleyball and supported each other—it felt that we had each other's back, which was significant for me.
The last 17 years of my corporate career were exceptional and meaningful. In 2000, I joined Lord, Abbett & Co. and ascended rapidly.
The meaning of my work was to learn about the company and how every function worked.
Within those 17 years, I held five distinct roles. I kept growing from my entry-level role as a project manager to various director roles reporting to the Chief Information Officer, including the last one, Director of the technology program office. I felt very connected to the people, teammates, leaders, stakeholders, and work itself. I felt like the work I was doing was meaningful and impactful, that I was helping solve real problems.
In 2009, after ten years of academic challenges with an on-again, off-again dissertation committee and a great deal of effort, late nights, and long weekends of schoolwork, I earned my Ph.D. in information systems. By then, life had taken a whole new meaning, especially in 2005 when I got married and in 2007 when my son, Kyle, was born.
After my son's birth, my purpose was to offer him the best version of me.
I doubled down on my personal development and even decided to arrange my life and work to revolve around him while still honoring my desires and my values of contributing my expertise to help others succeed.
In 2016, my corporate career ended. By 2017, I had rebranded to start a new adventure, Fearless Women @Work, which I later rebranded to ExecutiveBound with a new purpose of fulfilling my full potential using everything I had learned over the past 25 years to support leaders, talented women, and teams.
My new meaning then and today is to help leaders advance and thrive in their careers, finding the joy, meaning, and purpose in their profession and personal lives, so that together, we can live our full potential.
Today, loving my family and friends, learning, growing, impacting my environment, and being a positive influence in the lives of those I care for gives me an immense sense of purpose and meaning.
I also enjoy the multiple roles I play, putting into practice all my skills, leadership coaching, speaking, strategizing, creating, analyzing, learning, connecting dots, etc.
In a nutshell, these have been the most significant stages in my career and life. I share this quick synopsis of my career trajectory and invite you to think about yours because it seems like a grind when we don't find meaning and purpose in our profession and work.
We each have a unique path and story to share with our highs and lows. Let's explore where you are today.
If you're doing work that's super meaningful to you and you already feel connected, remind yourself of what is significant about what you do and how it's meaningful to you. This reflection will give you an added dose of passion, commitment, and fulfillment in your work.
If you're on the camp of "the work I'm doing is just to pay the bills," let's try this reframe.
Please take a few minutes and reflect on these areas. Look at the customers you impact, the relationships you have built and supported, and the team you work with and find the gold. What meaning do you see in these areas?
At the end of the day, what do you do that has an effect?
Even if you're not entirely married to the work you're doing, seek to find its meaning.
Your perception will shift, and you'll begin to deepen or feel the meaning, purpose, and joy in your work during this chapter in your career.
If you are ready to find true meaning in your work, ready for your next level of impact or financial stability, rather than getting frustrated and giving up, I'm here to remind you that you always have a choice.
If staying where you are is your choice, I'm not making light of that. I know we all have responsibilities. And if you want to make a move, it's also possible. It would be highly beneficial to create a strategic bridge to get from where you are to where you want to go.
Thank you for allowing me to live my purpose: to fulfill my potential and help my son, Kyle, and clients achieve theirs. At ExecutiveBound®, we are dedicated to accelerating your professional growth and developing senior leaders to create inclusive workplaces that promote business growth, high-performing teams, and personal well-being.
If you need support, you can reach us at www.callwithginny.com to set up a complimentary strategy session and explore how our programs can help you and your leaders gain critical skills to reach your full leadership potential. If not now, when?
Live with purpose, live with joy!
Coach Ginny 💕
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Dr. Ginny A. Baro is an award-winning transformational speaker & leadership coach, career strategist, and #1 best-selling author of Healing Leadership and Fearless Women at Work. Ginny specializes in partnering with organizations and ERGs to develop leadership dream teams. And she supports individuals navigating a corporate hierarchy or transitioning into an entirely new phase of their career. She has successfully facilitated live and virtual leadership training and coaching programs for individuals and Fortune 500 companies with over 140,000 employees, and delivered keynotes impacting global audiences larger than 7,000. To learn more, visit ExecutiveBound.
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