By: Reesa Staten of Robert Half
Early in my career with Robert Half, I joined a cycling team organized by the company for a two-day charity ride through California’s Napa Valley wine country and Sonoma coast. It was a great way to meet colleagues and raise money for a good cause (in this case, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society). Over the years, the work friendships I formed on that first ride and subsequent team events have benefitted me professionally and personally.
I kept biking, occasionally taking vacations that included bike tours. This summer, I completed RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), a weeklong, 468-mile ride across the state of Iowa. As an Iowa native, the ride had long been on my wish list.
I bring up the ride in a career column because I learned a lot about teamwork on this journey. I also learned the value of having personal goals in addition to your professional ones. For years I had put off signing up for RAGBRAI because it fell on one of my busiest weeks at work. It was easier to push off the ride than to try to explain to colleagues who would need to cover for me that I wanted a week off to ride my bike. And, yet, as it turned out, my colleagues were happy to help — and even a little inspired by my commitment to putting in the weeks and months of training it takes to prepare for a major endurance event.
I am not an athlete by nature, so my first hurdle was making room for training. Exercise doesn’t generally top my list of things to do after a long day at work. I eventually had to book appointments with myself just so it was on the calendar. And that was the secret. By prioritizing exercise and training the same way I prioritized other aspects of my life, I was able to find the time to get active. As I grew stronger physically, I found I became sharper in my job. I also had more interesting stories to tell friends and family that did not revolve around what I did at the office that day!
I admire people who have mastered work-life balance. The ones who can successfully juggle career demands and family obligations, make time for volunteer activities with a local church or nonprofit, and maintain an active fitness regimen. Work has always come first for me, often at the expense of being a well-rounded person in other aspects of life. I learned this summer that making time for myself made me better in all aspects of my life, including my career.
I also realized teamwork extends beyond the workplace if you have developed strong ties with coworkers. My office colleagues regularly asked me about my training progress. When an injury sidelined me for a few weeks, my inbox was filled with emails encouraging me to keep going. On my birthday, my office was decorated with inspirational messages and cycling photos to get me excited about the ride. I am fortunate to have an amazing group of colleagues — but I’ll bet many of you work with people who are equally engaged in helping you be successful in whatever you pursue.
I was in touch with the office at several points during the seven-day ride. Not for business updates, but to share photos from the various towns along the way. And I will pay it forward the next time one of my coworkers needs support to help reach a goal — at work or outside the office.
I had an amazing time riding RAGBRAI — it was physically challenging, but just like my coworkers back at the office, there was a support network of fellow riders at every stage. People are like that. It’s human nature to want others to succeed. So don’t be afraid to share your goals.
Chances are there is something you have always wanted to do, but work or family obligations have held you back. If you have a personal ambition, find the time to make it a reality. Your goal may or may not relate to your career. In either case, don’t put it off. You are capable of more than you imagine — and you have more support than you realize.
If you’re reading this, you are most likely already part of the Dress for Success network, and you know firsthand the support available to you from DFS staff, volunteers and fellow clients. Helping others reach their full potential is embedded in the mission of this organization. Use the resources available to you to gain the confidence and support you need to reach your goals.
And don’t forget to leave a little personal time, just for you.
Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.