Brendon Brown, University of Hartford
Careers and Their Place in Our Lives
Over the past few months, I’ve become more comfortable with the idea of moving away from home for work. However, my second trip with the National Millennial and Gen Z Community taught me that moving away isn't as simple as I thought.
In Charlotte, CGI, a consulting company, engaged us in an activity where we placed sticky notes on a whiteboard. These notes described features of what our dream workplace would look like. Slowly but surely, we began to notice certain trends and categorized them based on similarities. Things like DEI, career growth, and flexibility were all extremely popular; however, the most favored category--unanimously chosen--was receiving benefits.
What intrigued me the most was that many of the benefits listed weren’t things exclusive to the employee, such as paid time off (PTO) or vacation time. They were benefits related to families, such as insurance plans and paternity leave. Thinking about it now, it surprises me that the very first thing I’d written down was “benefits for my wife and kids.” It wasn’t about me at all, it was about my future family.
I feel like this brings into question the place that our careers hold in our lives. I felt so ready to move far away all for the sake of a job, but it’s not that simple. Where I work is just as critical as why I’m working there; and, if it’s worth the sacrifice that comes along with it.
After the activity at CGI, I had a fruitful conversation with Raja Rapaka, CGI’s Director of Consulting. He mentioned the strain he felt on his family life when the pandemic hit. One detail that stood out to me, in particular, was that because he was some distance away from home, the quarantine had forced him to miss Christmas with his extended family for the first time, and he no longer took that for granted.
It made me think about my family in Connecticut. My mother has MS, and as she gets older, I’ll need to be reasonably close to be able to look after her. This is because unprecedented events may prevent me from seeing her. That is my responsibility as her only son, and suddenly, my aspirations felt a tad selfish.
I understand that moving away from home isn’t an inherently bad thing, and I’m not afraid to, but my takeaway from this trip was that our lives come before our careers. There are so many factors to consider when moving for work, but as our time with CGI showed us, human connection and familial responsibility are ultimately at the center of that.
We cannot throw away our lives for a career, and that transcends beyond work benefits. Our legacy ultimately amounts to who we’ve impacted, not the job title we have, so taking care of the people in our lives should always be an inviolable priority. There’s a saying that “in the pursuit of great, we failed to do good,” and I hope I never forget that.