When I was a kid, I loved The Wizard of Oz.
My mom used to let me, my sister and my brother eat in the living room when it came on TV. What a thrill.
Aside from being allowed to escape the dinner table for once, everything about the film drew me in — its whimsical nature, the characters, the story. As I reflect on my 35-year career at EP+Co, I can’t help but think about The Wizard of Oz and the idea that there’s really no place like home.
But how do you find a welcoming, comfortable home at work?
When people ask me how I’ve managed to stay at one company for 35 years without losing my mind, I always respond the same way: “It sure doesn’t feel that long.” And I mean it. I’ve been able to enjoy my career without job hopping for a few different reasons.
Indeed, I’ve learned a thing or two over the past three-and-a-half decades that just might interest those who are ready to put down some roots.
So, here’s my advice.
Find a company that values change
While I’ve been at this one place for nearly 40 years, it’s been anything but one place — and that has made an enormous difference in the trajectory of my life.
Companies change all the time, and that’s very good (and necessary) when done right. You should prioritize working for an organization that intentionally evolves with the world around us without losing its identity.
Companies that have stood the test of time are not afraid of change. In fact, they embrace it. They commit to their own unique framework of belief — a guiding light, if you will — and use it to inform every decision, allowing them to evolve in smart ways.
Take Nike, for example. Since 1964, it has made good on its mission to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. From diversifying its portfolio of brands to drive profitability, to developing new products to meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer, Nike has adapted repeatedly without losing sight of its core values. That’s what’s made it legendary.
Companies that consistently abide by their belief system and values can intentionally change to innovate and grow without losing loyal customers and employees. They have the power to make you feel comfortably uncomfortable, which I for one, find invigorating. Maybe you will, too.
Find a company that encourages you to learn and teach.
I come from a long line of teachers. My mother, sister, grandfather, grandmother — all teachers. I even married a special education teacher. Obviously, education holds a special place in my heart.
Those in advertising often discuss the value of curiosity and learning, but rarely discuss the value of teaching — which is a huge disservice to everyone. After all, there is no learning without teaching. That’s exactly why my favorite saying is “Be humble enough to be a student; Be generous enough to be a teacher.”
Everyone can learn and everyone can teach. But not every place encourages that mindset. I’m not just talking about the value in formal training, though that is important. I’m also not just talking about the value in technical education, though that is important, too. I’m talking about the value in the relationship between student and teacher.
Having the opportunity to be both a student and a teacher is critical to your growth and the extent of your happiness in any role. If you don’t feel you’re growing, move on. If you don’t have an opportunity to share your knowledge with others, move on. There are too many good companies out there to stay stuck.
Never underestimate the power and importance of relationships.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to have people that care about me. Care about me enough to praise me. Care about me enough to constructively criticize me. Care about me enough to say anything at all.
So, I’ve been fortunate to learn the relationships you form at work are some of the most important you’ll have in life.
When you work at a company, you gain equity — or at least, you should. Learn about your colleagues and employees. Let people learn things about you. Show them that they can trust you and rely on you.
We spend so much of our time at work, and it’s no secret that things can sometimes get hard or mundane. When that happens, people are there. Cultivate relationships with your colleagues and you’ll always have something to look forward to.
On that note, one of the key reasons I’ve remained at EP+Co for 35 years is because I found a place that lets me come home every day.
Like Dorothy, I’ve found friends with brains and heart and courage who are always up for an exciting adventure. I’ve had people to share challenges and successes with. I’ve met so many interesting, diverse characters who watched out for me and let me watch out for them. I learned from them, and I like to think they also learned from me.
If you want to find your home at work, find a place that knows how to evolve without losing its identity.
Find a place that encourages you to be both a student and a teacher.
Find a place that actively enables and encourages relationships with diverse groups.
Then, embark on a remarkable journey — without ever leaving your home.
Allen Bosworth is president at EP+Co.