I attended a retro event recently to award some winners. There were over 300 people dressed up in their favorite Retro dress. The event had a retro impact on my mind, As the event unfolded, my mind took a nostalgic trip. I was trying to remember the favorite company I worked for or the best team I was part of!
The trip started with an Offsite I once attended where all of us were asked who was the best employer we had worked for. The room was filled with people who had an average 15 years work experience. Guess what; nobody raised their hand that their current employer was the best organisation to work for.
At that experience level, you can imagine that people would have reached reasonable senior positions in their careers. But the growth in position and money did not make them feel that they were working for their best yet. But when we all explained to the facilitator why, I deciphered the rational. Most of us had chosen our first or second employers as our best organisation so far. It seemed that we valued the skills we learnt in our first jobs and without exception all of them were fortune 500 brands. But in my view its human nature to go back to the past and feel happy; but the logic could be less coherent.
Somewhere I believe that our own age (read youth) makes us a little more romantic about our first couple of employers. It’s quite likely that we wouldn’t have been quite occupied in our personal spaces during those stages in life; things like marriage, divorce, parenting, aged parents, round two of education etc etc. This enabled us to give more time to colleagues and work. We would have spent more time with them to socialise, be it dinners, movies, outstation trips and made them almost our friends. Being at the bottom of the pyramid of the organisation, we would have been part of more rewards/recognition programs and our own expectations from employers were different.
In the sense, we never knew how any organisation worked; based on our limited expectations, any good experience would look fantastic. Most importantly we would have made more friends and coming to work was more fun just because of the company of our colleagues. Hence, after about ten years of employment we get frozen in time with the first 5-7 years of our career life. I call it Nostalgia than greater employer experience.
I once attended our alumni meet at College, we were asked to speak about our experiences and how the college had contributed to our life. Many of us took the mike and talked about lecturers, facilities, and atmosphere. Privately some of us were grinning about how we were then grumbling about lack of better practical laboratories, inexperienced lecturers making the classes boring, library not having the right collection of books. Many of us had attendance shortages for most part of the college including me. But after 12 years out of college it looked a great place purely due to the good time we had when we bunked classes, definitely not because we learnt something or enjoyed while learning.
Coming back to work I don’t know which team I would pick as the best team that I ever worked for ten years from now.
After writing this, I fell in love with my theory and wanted to test this. In the morning, I asked my friend to pick his favorite employer. We are classmates and friends for two decades and travel together to Office when I am in Bangalore. He chose his second employer, a bank whom he joined when he was 23 years of age. Last 14 years he is working for a software major, he has neither changed jobs or attended interviews and is just short of being a director there. But he says those two years, he had so much fun in the bank with about 1/100th of salary he is getting today. I gave him a high-five for validating my theory.
It’s good to get frozen in time once in a while to take a pause and enjoy the past. But Career is like a bird which needs to fly. By flying higher we see the farthest. So don’t get stuck in the past. By my logic our current team and employer is the best for tomorrow’s nostaligia.