Happy Labor Day weekend! Labor Day was established in 1882 by the American labor movement as a yearly tribute to the contributions of workers.
Today, I also encourage my career coaching clients and students to think of Labor Day as a day to celebrate the joys of meaningful work (between cold beers and volleyball games). That means pausing to pat yourself on the back for the good work that you’ve done this year and give thanks for the opportunities that you’ve been given.
For those in transition or marking time in a frustrating job, it might also mean taking a step back to re-evaluate your long-term career strategy. Remember: You are not trapped. Even in this job market, there are opportunities. You may have to invest a bit more time and creativity to achieve your goals in a challenging economic environment. But that makes the achievement all the sweeter.
Whether you’re happily employed in your dream job or struggling to find a new path, I have a Labor Day exercise that will help you take stock of where you are and spark some ideas for the next chapter of your career.
It only takes a few minutes and can totally change your perspective on labor. For best results, complete the exercise while relaxing on the beach, in the park, or in the backyard (with cold beer, iced tea, or frozen margarita close at hand).
The Exercise: 2009 Labor Day Success Inventory
The goal of the Success Inventory is to look back at your greatest successes in life so far. The easiest way to approach this is to divide your life into 3 or 4 segments — for example: birth to age 12, 12-24, and 24-46. For each stretch of time, list your most memorable accomplishments.
Think about school and job milestones, but also look beyond graduations, promotions, and awards. Think about learning to ride a bike, organizing a charity fundraiser, running your first 10K, knitting your first sweater.
What achievements are you most proud of? Which were the most fun? Which had you forgotten about until prompted by this exercise?
What’s the Point?
Come on, get out your notebook or open up a fresh file in Microsoft Word and start cataloging your shining moments so far. The results may surprise you.
My clients always tell me that they walk away from this exercise with renewed confidence and feelings of empowerment. During tough times, we often forget about all of the amazing things we’ve accomplished in the past and all of the challenges that we’ve already overcome.
This exercise can also help you spot some trends and patterns that merit further exploration. Why is it that all of the best moments in your life involved music? Isn’t it interesting that your biggest triumphs revolved around public speaking?
Does your current career give you opportunities to leverage your greatest talents? If not, how can you change that?
On Labor Day weekend, take some time to celebrate the fruits of your labors so far and think about what you want to achieve in the future. What will your legacy be? What do you want to celebrate next Labor Day?
I’ll leave you with a quote:
“Genius may conceive, but patient labor must consummate.”
– Horace Mann, American educator
Here’s to another year of genius and patient (and fulfilling) labor.
P.S. If you’re in New York City, check out these other ideas for fun things to do over Labor Day weekend. After you’ve inventoried your successes, you’ll be ready to celebrate.