T’is the season for holiday parties and festive networking events. Bosses and coworkers stroll through the office in better moods and with higher energy. Although it’s tempting to revel in holiday adrenaline, take a moment to reflect on the year behind before gearing up for the next. Consider the lesson at the heart of the film, A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by several spirits on Christmas Eve — Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
Take a moment to remember those who helped you to accomplish your goals. Consider how often you show gratitude, provide mentorship to others, or simply open your network to include new contacts. Imagine if the ghosts from the film accompanied you through various stages of your life. Would your ‘film’ look anything like this?
The ghost of Christmas Past takes you back to school and the teachers who played a formative role in educating and molding you. You visit old classrooms, beginning from Kindergarten and making your way to the high school.
You linger in the high school classroom of an inspirational teacher and your eyes widen as you watch your old coach walk past. You might smile when seeing your favorite college professor in the distance, and remember her letter of recommendation that secured your spot into grad school or an internship of choice.
The classrooms shift into offices. You initially glimpse your very first boss who hired you after college followed by the often-challenging manager who enabled you to become a better employee. And, finally, the boss who took you under his wing—the best boss and mentor you ever had.
Christmas Present guides you through your current office. You tour Human Resources, Accounting, IT, Marketing, and the C-suite. The ghost pauses each time you pass the cubicle of a younger employee. You are surprised to realize how many junior coworkers you don’t know by name.
You begin to say hello to someone who started just last week in Benefits, when the scene shifts, and you find yourself at a business networking happy hour. You notice the many young attendees you typically walk past, knowing their business cards will bring you no leads or referrals.
The last stop is a career event at a local university, where you recall once being asked to speak with students about careers in your profession. You may have even meant to go.
You’ll expect Christmas Future to appear more frightening, but he looks like an ordinary middle manager leading you to a conference room decorated for a party. A handful of attendees mill around a cake. One by one, people pause at the door, glance inside, and walk away. You realize that many of the people filing past are employees you’ve worked with—mostly younger workers you never took the time to know, even when assigned to your project team. You turn back and see someone has loaded a presentation. “Happy Retirement,” it reads, and as you count the people still present. You don’t get to ten.
Hopefully, the painting of this tale doesn’t resonate with you. But, if elements do, it’s okay. We can all cast wider nets of human connection. And, most importantly, it is never too late!
Sure, we can’t all contribute in the same way. Some will give generously to charity, while others volunteer. Just remember that life is all about human connections, and we’re surrounded by opportunities for these connections at work. Each of us can become more accommodating with our professional colleagues. We spend eight hours a day with coworkers—a simple “hello” goes a long way. That hello contributes to a productive and engaging office culture. We can also widen our net of positivity and connection by more freely connecting on LinkedIn and interact on Twitter, especially with young people interested in learning and maturing. We can answer emails and provide advice. We can meet for coffee and lunch. Think about how the newly appreciative Ebenezer Scrooge would respond if you emailed him a question, invited him to connect on LinkedIn, or asked for his help in being introduced to a colleague.
If the Christmas ghosts visited this holiday season, would you be happy with their presentation? As we move through the holiday season, let’s appreciate our amazing connections and endeavor to foster new ones.
After all, the holiday recipe is simple: A dash of making time. One cup of giving back. Mentoring to taste. Connecting until done.
Let us keep the spirit alive and well, all through the year. And may that be truly said of us, and all of us.