I was achieving great success, by anyone's standards: making excellent money, traveling to fun places for conferences, living the dream.
Then one day I quit.
You see, despite my so-called success, the nine months I worked as an insurance salesperson when I was 21 were my most miserable in my professional career. It was all about making sales and making money, and not about helping people as I'd originally thought. I just didn't fit in there. It's hard to explain. I just wasn't happy.
For three years I was a middle school math teacher in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. I loved inspiring young minds, helping my students learn how to problem solve, and building culture within my classroom.
I didn't love building politics, the horrible bureaucracy in the schools, or my principals. Despite loving my students, I stopped liking coming to work every day. So I quit teaching, and never looked back.
What did those two seemingly unrelated professional experiences have in common? In each, ultimately I left because I didn't fit with the organization's culture. I didn't share the same core values.
The most important factor in your professional success is finding (or starting) an organization that fits within your core values and a culture that resonates.
Those two organizations didn't fit my core values and culture, so I started an organization called Likeable Media that would. Over time, we built a team, a culture and core values together:
We are driven to exceed client expectations.
Exude passion in every interaction.
Build relationships through transparency.
We are accountable to deliver what we promise.
We innovate to produce results.
By the way, those weren't always the core values at Likeable Media. We used to have thought leadership and adaptability in there, but the team simply felt that those traits weren't as vital as accountability and innovation.
That's the thing about core values and culture- it's a living, breathing thing that changes as organizations change and grow.
Or at least it should be. Too many companies simply post core values on their website and then forget about it. Too many companies focus more on profits and less on culture.
I love core values and culture. I hated the culture at my insurance job and teaching job, but then I got the opportunity to help shape them at new organizations. And that was really fun. (You've got to find a place to work we're so pumped to go in every day. Otherwise it's just not worth it!)
Then one day I woke up and I wasn't so passionate about helping big companies with social media anymore. So I had a conversation with my wife Carrie, who agreed to step up and lead Likeable Media, while I partnered with my longtime friend Hugh Morgenbesser to start Likeable Local.
We built a new team, new product, and over time, new core values and culture. At Likeable Local, our core values are a little different:
We are passionate about small business.
Our customer's success is our success.
We believe it's best to always be improving.
Our work is fun.
We are driven to create a #LikeableWorld.
Here is a slideshare presentation we recently made on culture and core values:
Today, my managers and I hire new employees based on how well they fit within our core values and culture. Those who do really fall in love with our core values and culture? They're always the people who are most successful!
So, my question for you, is are you happy with the core values and culture at the organization where you work?
Do you even know what the core values are? If you are going to spend more of your waking life at your job than you do with your family, don't you owe it to yourself to spend that time at an organization with core values and a culture that really resonate with you? That really make you feel at home at work?
These aren't easy questions, but they're really important ones to find the answers to.
After all, your happiness and your professional success may depend on it.