It’s Labor Day #LetsTalkAboutWork!

It’s Labor Day – the last barbecue of summer, the ‘final’ summer sale on everything, and the traditional late evening travel crush. What if we reimagined this holiday as a day of national conversation on work and workers? #LetsTalkAboutWork!

You need not look further than the USA TODAY headline: “Labor Day by the Numbers: Americans Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop Working” to realize we are spending more time @work and less time considering why. Here’s just a sampling of stats journalist Ashley May reported: 41% of workers did not take a single vacation day in 2015, 55% ended the year with unused vacation days, and 41% of employers require staff to work today, Labor Day.

Out of necessity we maintain a laser focus on our own career goals, spending most of the 365 days a year securing our future as best we can in an ever changing workplace. What if we just took one of those days to consider the workplace issues we face as part of a larger context?

The Labor Day holiday was originally conceived as “…a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

What better way to offer a tribute to the American worker than to engage in a national discussion that restores respect and considers the reality of today’s workplace?

Politicians will parade and hold forth at Labor Day gatherings, but will not solicit ideas, or listen to the voices of workers who don’t share their agenda.

Access to education and a right to work are fundamental American values. It’s how we define ourselves when asked ‘what do you do?’. Imagine the despair for those with no answer.

It’s time to reestablish the voice of the American worker and address both the barriers to workplace entry, and the challenges @work once you arrive.

Share your ideas @workthoughts.com #LetsTalkAboutWork!

 

 

The Friday Poem ‘Labor Day’ by Joseph Millar

Part of the year I live in a ‘swing state’ where the economy has not yet recovered, and politicians fill the airwaves with promises of transformational ‘greatness’. The Friday Poem this week is from Pennsylvania native, former telephone repairman, commercial fisherman, and poet Joseph Millar. ‘Labor Day’ captures the quiet of a national holiday, first celebrated in New York on September 5, 1882.

“The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.”

Labor Day

Even the bosses are sleeping late
in the dusty light of September.

The parking lot’s empty and no one cares.
No one unloads a ladder, steps on the gas

or starts up the big machines in the shop,
sanding and grinding, cutting and binding.

No one lays a flat bead of flux over a metal seam
or lowers the steel forks from a tailgate.

Shadows gather inside the sleeve
of the empty thermos beside the sink,

the bells go still by the channel buoy,
the wind lies down in the west,

the tuna boats rest on their tie-up lines
turning a little, this way and that.

Joseph Millar  from ‘Blue Rust’ Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012

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What are you going to do with those energy reserves you stored this summer?

As the sun sets on summer 2016, use the upcoming Labor Day weekend as a catalyst to recalibrate you career trajectory.

Why Labor Day? Timing is everything. This weekend marks a transition between seasons and a sense of ‘starting over’ as a new school year begins.

When you arrive @work on Tuesday morning your plans will collide with the competing interests of colleagues returning to work, equally energized and motivated. If you have a plan, and a schedule of activities already on your calendar you will be in a position to maintain the momentum, moving you closer to your ‘dream’.

Start with two questions:

What do I still want to accomplish?

What is one thing I can do move forward?

Your answer to the first question asserts your priorities, and the second sets the first item on your agenda.

When thinking about priorities, consider feedback you have received from managers, colleagues, mentors and friends. What skills need fine tuning? Is there additional expertise you need to acquire to advance in your current position or transition to a new workplace? Who can help you achieve your goals? Is it time for additional training or an advanced degree?

The ‘still want to accomplish’ question hits at the fundamental essence of who you are, who you want to become, and the legacy you want to leave behind. It has a workplace component, but also addresses work/life balance, and your role as a contributing member of your community.

The next step is to schedule a meeting to set your priorities in motion: coffee with a mentor to review your career direction, an information interview to establish a new professional connection, a visit to a local non-profit, or a meeting with an academic advisor to explore educational options.

Your priorities dictate your agenda.

Before the weekend comes to an end, take a few minutes to review your calendar and block out time for ‘summer energy reserves expenditures’. Send at least one email requesting a meeting and try to find time each week to sit down with folks who can expand your career horizons.

Effectively managing your work/life is an ongoing energy expense. It will keep you moving forward, recalibrating as needed.