Stand Tall and Speak Up: Work and Your Other Life - Navigating the Course
- Eve S. Sprunt (2006 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- March 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 10 - 12
- 2006. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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My favorite adage about work/life balance is not the oft-quoted saying, “No one on their deathbed ever wished they’d spent more time at the office.” Instead, I prefer the advice to “write your own obituary.”
Although the first is a good warning, it doesn’t provide much guidance. In contrast, the second supplies a technique to help you plan your life even at an advanced age. Alfred Nobel made a fortune by inventing and manufacturing dynamite. In 1888, when his brother Ludvig died, a newspaper misattributed the work of Alfred to his brother and printed the headline, “The Merchant of Death is Dead!” Disgusted by the obituary of himself, Alfred Nobel decided to use his wealth to alter his legacy. When he died 8 years later, he provided funds for awards for people whose work was of benefit to humanity and in doing so successfully turned around society’s assessment of him. Today, almost no one associates Nobel Prizes with death from the use of dynamite.
The exercise of writing your own obituary and thinking about what you want to accomplish is a good way to clarify your priorities. Then, you can work the inverse problem to identify the steps you must take. As Alfred Nobel’s story illustrates, even if you are in the sunset of your life, it is not too late to ask yourself what you want to accomplish with the remaining time you have.
Meshing career planning with work/life balance issues is challenging, because we each have different dreams and priorities. One person’s perfect job is another person’s worst nightmare. Also, since our family situations and goals change with time, the ideal job at one point in our life may be totally unacceptable at another time. People are not mind readers, so we must not expect someone else to intuit what we want. We must be willing to tell them what we want or to figure out for ourselves how to execute an alternative plan. We must also recognize that the choices we make may cost us promotions or rapid advancement. For me, this is the central premise of being responsible for your own career.
Experience is cumulative. If, for work/life balance reasons, we choose to seek positions that do not provide the opportunities to develop certain skills, we must recognize the consequences of our actions. Later, it will be difficult to secure a job that has those skills as a prerequisite, unless we can convince people that we have equivalent competencies. Alternatively, we may be willing to take on the responsibilities of a position, but not be selected for a role that provides the experience we desire. In either case, to get past the roadblock we need to take independent action.
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