Work It!

It’s all about the work. Those of you who have worked side-by-side with me know this is my belief and my experience. But it’s not just mine…it’s a universal truth. If you focus on the work you do, everything else finds its place.

Relationships? They absolutely matter. Your ability to collaborate and build on common interests can fuel your work. But it’s not the work. As you move on and evolve, so do the networks and the people in them. The work is always there.

Reputation? Absolutely. It must be in tact. It opens doors and sustains you in difficult times. So take good care of it, but don’t let it become your preoccupation. Your reputation is built on the good work for which you are known.

Connections? We all need them. Work is done in and for communities, and inasmuch as yours lift you up they can support you in your work. But belonging to a community of practice is not the same as belonging to a tribe. Know the difference.

Influence? Influence is good. It helps to see that your work matters to others. But it isn’t a constant. One minute you have it, the next minute it moves on. And then there’s the things that you allow to influence you. Be careful.

Accomplishments? Sure, they matter. They serve as benchmarks of the work and they’re incentive to do more. Still, they’re not the be-all and end-all. While it’s important to stop and celebrate your achievements, the work continues.

Impact? It’s a great indicator. Seeing that your work makes a difference is rewarding. But work happens in increments and its impact isn’t always evident (if ever). Don’t let it be the driver for what you do and how you do it.

Compensation? It can be a reflection of the value of your work, but it shouldn’t be the determinant. Once you start pursuing it, it pulls your focus away from the work itself. Likewise, it doesn’t define your value…unless you let it.

Professional advancement? It can be a natural result of your efforts, but it’s not incidental to the work. Note that being selective helps. Walking through every door that opens is risky. Eventually you may find yourself wondering how you got where you are.

While there are many variables in the work, don’t confuse them with the work itself. Because when everything else fails, the work is still there. It brings a satisfaction that is neither fleeting nor elusive. You can count on it.

The work draws you into the details. It demands your attention. It is invigorating and exhausting…unforgiving and rewarding…tedious, relentless and all-consuming. It demands everything you bring to it, and more…and it is consolation when nothing else seems to be moving forward. If you find this not to be true, find new work!

Professionally speaking, you remember (and you are remembered for) the work you do. Everything else flows from it.

Walter McKenzie is Senior Director for Constituent Services at ASCD, leading its affiliate, connected community, professional interest community, student chapter and emerging leader programs.

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