An old friend from LLNL contacted me recently. I retired from “The Lab” almost five years ago and had not heard from him since. Out of the blue, though, he showed up on LinkedIn and commented that I’d had a good career. And yes, God indeed blessed me with meaningful work that was good in many ways. However, after almost three years at Southern Company Services and almost 38 years at L:LNL, I regret a few simple mistakes made along the way. Here are three suggestions based on those simple regrets:
Eat lunch with your colleagues. In our early years we did not have money for me to eat lunch at the company cafeteria, I brought leftovers from home, ate in my office, and got into the habit of working through lunch. It would have been better to brown-bag it in the cafeteria and build a wider set of relationships with my colleagues.
Have coffee with the manager. I was blessed with several wonderful managers in the course of my career, and many of them became good friends. More than once, my boss would say, “let’s go for a cup of coffee.” They were inviting me into a conversation, perhaps to discuss a challenge, opportunity, or both, but I usually did not realize it until later. If the boss invites you to go somewhere for coffee, it’s usually a good idea to go.
Take a walk with the boss. Sometimes my boss or another senior professional would say, “let’s go for a walk.” It might involve looking at some work outside the office, but more often it was meant as a venue for off-line, informal discussion. It might be an opportunity for mentoring, sharing inside information, or reflecting on the path ahead. And again, unless there is a really good reason to decline, pause what you are doing and go for that stroll.
It took time, but eventually those lessons took root. I know that relationships at work and in the community are valuable, but they are even more important than we sometimes realize, and worth cultivating. Today, if someone invites me for coffee or wants to take time to talk, I try to disengage from life’s busyness and see the invitation for the blessing and opportunity that it could become.