The 5 Things I Learned in the Corporate World That Changed My LifeAug 03, 2020
Today is officially my last day working in public accounting. After 6.5 years, I learned so much more in the corporate life beyond just how to prepare a balance sheet or how to use excel.
Sure, I learned a bunch of soft skills and people skills that will be beneficial for anything that I do. Like how to communicate, how to network, and how to manage a team.
But I also learned a lot of key lessons that changed my life.
I learned how to have a life outside of work. I learned that work life balance is actually possible. (If you're not a fan of calling it work life balance, the point is being able to have more time and energy for those things that are important to you outside of work).
I learned how to create the life I wanted to live. I learned who I was and what I wanted in life. I learned what I was actually created to do in life.
Which is why after 6.5 years in the corporate life, I am leaving to pursue my true calling and passion of writing to help others have a relationship with Jesus and to live the life they were created to live.
Below are the top 5 things I learned in the corporate world that changed my life. I pray that you are able to master the skills below so you too can live the life you were created to live.
How to Say No
You have only so much time and energy in the day. I quickly realized that there will always be more to do at work and there will always be people asking for more of you. More of your precious time and energy.
We can feel pressured to say yes and to do more at work. We want to help others on our team. We want to impress our boss. We want to be a high performer so we can get that promotion and raise we’ve been after.
But if you keep saying yes to everything and everyone, you’ll realize that you end up saying no to yourself. You end up saying no to the things that matter the most to you outside of work.
The key to saying no is figuring out what or who you need to say yes to. The key is figuring out which things or which people you can afford to say no too.
For every 'yes' you give someone, you have to assess what you are essentially saying 'no' to in return.
Even when I was single, I learned that I was sacrificing too much of my personal time to do more at work. I felt bad saying no and wanted to do a good job for my bosses.
But a few days before Christmas one year, I realized the cost of what I was giving up. I was trying to finish up work for the holiday break and my 4-year old nephew was playing with his grandma, waiting to bake Christmas cookies.
When another work request came in, I got frustrated and realized enough was enough. I realized that if I said yes to that new work request, it meant saying no to baking Christmas cookies with my nephew. I realized that I would only have this moment with him at this age at Christmas once and I realized that this was one thing that was not worth missing out on.
So I quickly realized to stop, pause and wait before saying yes to additional work at work if I was already at capacity. I realized that with each new request, we must ask ourselves, what are we essentially saying no to or giving up in return?
Whether it’s dinner with your friends or family, a work out class, or baking cookies with your nephew, identify those things that are important to you that you can’t afford to say no to.
How to Prioritize Things That Matter
Nobody is going to manage your outlook calendar for you, unless you’re a partner or can afford an assistant.
You are in control of your schedule. You are in control of your commitments and meetings throughout the day, including your personal commitments. You are in control of what you choose to focus your time and energy on.
It can be easy to get into the mentality that work always comes first. But when you continue to put work first, you realize that other areas of your life suffer. Your sleep. Your work outs. Your relationships. Your dog.
I learned that I was putting work first for far too long. When I learned how to say no, it became easy to prioritize other things in my life that came first.
When I realized that I needed God in my life, I learned how to put him first above everything else in my life. I took some time off from work a few years ago and ever since then I’ve put time with God first every day, no matter how busy I was with work.
Every day I wake up, I start my day on my couch with my Bible and with God. I read, pray and worship.
I realized that I didn’t have to check my emails first thing in the morning when I woke up. I realized that the emails and work would be there at 9 am when I was ready to actually start work.
I realized that when I put God first, I felt more calm and peaceful throughout the day, no matter what the work day had in store for me. I had more energy and strength to accomplish the day ahead.
If you are struggling to make God a priority in your life, check out my blog post, How to Make God Your #1 Priority, for tips and strategies on how to actually make more time for God in your schedule.
I also learned how to schedule and prioritize personal commitments that were important to me. I realized that nobody was going to judge me if I left work at 5 pm for a spin class. I realized that nobody cared if I had to leave early for an appointment as long as I got my work done.
If people do judge you or give you a hard time for leaving even after you've got your work done, then those are not people that you want to work with.
Just like those meetings that are important to us at work, we have the ability to prioritize those things in our personal life that matter as well. But it’s up to you to make it a priority and to make it happen. Don’t keep letting work overshadow everything else.
How to Unplug and Disconnect
Praise God I also learned how to rest and disconnect from work.
Did you know that rest is actually a gift from God? One of the ten commandments is observing the Sabbath, which means taking a day off every week to rest.
God himself even rested on the 7th day. And he knew we would need rest.
But somehow, people at work started glorifying being busy. People started thinking working all weekend was okay. Some people even brag about the late hours they are working.
So many people in the business world feel like they are constantly on call for work. Technology and working from home can be such a blessing but it can blur the boundaries of work and home at the same time.
Some people say they never 'shut off'. A lot of people even say that it's normal to check emails throughout the evening or even on weekends.
But I learned that the world was not going to end if I didn’t answer an email right away. I learned that my performance at year-end wasn’t going to suffer if I didn’t work on the weekends.
Learning how to turn my email off on my phone was the biggest thing that helped me unplug from work. It was such a simple change that had an exponential impact on my personal happiness and life outside of work.
When the email is off, you don’t see that little number blaring in your face, informing you that you have emails. When it’s off, you aren’t tempted to check it right when you wake up or right in the middle of dinner. You can actually think about something else before your head hits the pillow every night.
God created a Sabbath, a mentality of rest for a reason. Find a way to disconnect each week and even throughout the day to get the rest and time off work you deserve.
Love and Small Acts of Kindness Really Do Go a Long Way
I quickly realized that I cared more about the people at work than the accounting. I realized I had a passion for people and that spreading love and kindness wherever I went made my job so much more meaningful.
Even as I realized that accounting was not the job for me, I stayed because of the people. I knew I had a responsibility as an ambassador of Christ to spread love wherever I went.
During those seasons where the work and client demands were tough, the people I worked with along the way kept me going. At the end of the day, I knew God wanted me in the business world to spread more love and kindness.
I realized that spreading kindness and promoting a positive culture in the workplace were contagious. While the time I took to invest in others may never have showed up on my timesheet, I knew deep down it had an impact to those around me.
I saw cultures shift. I saw community and bonding happening outside of work. I saw work life balance improve. I saw others' happiness improve at work.
Taking the time to welcome someone or offer support will never be wasted. A quick hello. A coffee chat. Catching up over dove chocolates. A team happy hour.
Love really is contagious – even in the corporate world. Don't underestimate the power of a small act of kindness.
My Identity and Purpose Are Not Defined by My Job
Last but most importantly, I learned that my identity and purpose are not defined by my job. I learned that being an accountant or CPA does not define me.
Whenever people would ask what I did for work, I would always cringe inside and explain that I’m an accountant. I cringed because I knew being an accountant did not define me. I knew people would judge me by the stereotype accountant in their head.
When I started seeking a relationship with God more, he showed me that I am a child of God. A woman of faith. God defines who I am - not my job title, not the mistakes of my past, not anyone else.
God showed me that I have purpose in whatever I do, not because of what I do. He showed me that my purpose as a Christian is to love God and to love others around me no matter what.
And he showed me that there is so much more to life than work or our jobs. Our career is just one part of our lives – there is so much more purpose to life than just our work.
Do You Want to Strengthen Your Relationship with God?
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Want to Learn More About Your Purpose at Work or in Life in General?
These are my favorite books that helped me understand my purpose as a Christian in general and at work. When times at work were tough, these books gave me hope and courage to continue to represent God at work even when I knew I wasn't passionate about my job. Click below to view on Amazon.
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