The working world today is different from what it was when our parents joined it. On one hand, it is more demanding. The hours are longer, the competition fiercer, the effort involved greater. On the other hand, it is more flexible. Structures are more fluid, roles less defined, protocol less formal.
I started working awhile ago and at the back of my mind I’ve held onto a general notion of keeping my personal and professional life seperate. Hence I have never dated anybody I worked with. I also never anticipated or even tried making friends. It isn’t that simple anymore. Its not easy to compartmentalise emotions and energy now. It isn’t even easy to slot people into areas of professional and personal contacts anymore.
This has been complicated several times over since my MBA program. Through the years of preparing for the program and then actually going through it, I have become a part of a network now. At that time it just seemed like I was competing with this many people for a seat. A little later it was about classmates and getting together with them on some class projects. Classmates are after all classmates….buddies in some sense.
The realisation is hitting me right now that these are not people that are going to vanish or even stay put within my ‘personal life’ sphere. All of these people have entered the working world around the same time that I did and will continue to be there in some way. They’ve become colleagues, clients, competitors, vendors. This is a network of people. People I’ve known because I grew up with them, competed with them, studied with them and worked with them. It is a sudden feeling of belonging…of being a part of a huge network. I am one link in a huge mechanism…inextricably connected to a hundred others.
I have met people who I like, in the course of my work and it doesn’t seem to make sense to restrict my contact with them simply because I have worked with them. When you work together with people, face pressures together and even cover up for each other, there is a certain bond that develops. I have good memories of my first workplace and not just because the work was interesting but also because the people there contributed significantly to my growth as a person.
I’m not even sure where the professional life ends and where the personal starts. There aren’t any clear cut rules over who to maintain a facade with and who to relax with, any more. More and more I think that just like our parents’ generation stood for rebellion against the system, ours represents the birth of new systems. Gender stereotypes, nepotism, work structures….all dissolve. Maybe it is a good thing to be in a time where a person’s role is not defined by the structure. Rather the structures are defined by the people who constitute them.
Your work is more than the reason for your salary slip. There is also satisfaction, frustration, pressure, victory. It is validation. As of today, my worth as an individual is so much determined by my work and how I do it, how my colleagues see me and where I fit into the working world. As the Godfather would say “Everything is personal.”