The secret to loving your job for 25 years (and counting)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median length of time a worker stays at a job is 4.1 years. Even when you adjust for my personal demographics, less than half of men my age have been at their current job for 10 years or more.

This month marks my 25th anniversary at State Bank of Cross Plains (SBCP). Believe it not, I still love going to work every day. In fact, I haven’t taken a sick day in 25 years.

When someone pointed out that my experience is not necessarily the norm, I thought perhaps sharing my perspective about work might help others find more joy in their jobs.

A how-to guide for loving your job

You might think I’m going to say you can love any job if you approach it with the right attitude. You would be wrong.

You also might say that it’s easy to love your job when you’re the boss, but the secret I’m about to share applies to any job in any industry. I started out at SBCP as a commercial lender, hired to drum up business for the bank’s brand-new-at-the-time Middleton office, which was a completely new service area for us.

In truth, I tried similar jobs at other organizations before I came to State Bank of Cross Plains, but they didn’t match my personality. At all.

My real advice is to find the job that matches your personality and your priorities. It is all about finding the right fit for you as an individual.

The secret to finding that perfect match? Know your core values. When I first started out, I took a job at a large regional bank in the Milwaukee area. After being raised by generations of community bankers — my grandfather, father, and brother were all community bankers — this was the first time I really understood that not all banking was the same.

Despite holding the same title in the same industry — just two different types of banks — I went from not knowing how I could make an impact at my first job to feeling like I perfectly belonged here.

The trick to taking advantage of this secret to success is figuring out your personal set of core values. Clearly, I didn’t know my core values when I took my first job. Understandably, this is a process that takes time and experience and a huge dose of self-awareness.

So, where do you start when trying to figure out your core values? Consider some of the following:

  • Challenge. Some people like to solve problems. Others prefer the predictability of routine. For example, an ER physician might enjoy the challenge of not knowing what to expect next while an anesthesiologist goes through the same steps every time with at least slightly more routine built into their work. Personally, helping people overcome challenges is one of my core values. I have enjoyed the challenge of helping people achieve their financial goals.
  • Family time. I started working at SBCP in late November 1995. On Dec. 10 — I remember it so clearly — I walked into a half-empty office and asked where everyone was. My boss explained that the local elementary school was holding its Christmas play that day. All of those people were watching their children perform. I was shocked that they could all just leave in the middle of the day for something that seemed so trivial. However, that moment forever shaped the way I view the balance between home life and work life. “Being there” for my family is now one of my core values.
  • Purpose and Impact. You might find purpose from your job. You might find purpose from having a job that enables volunteerism. I was raised in a family where community involvement and volunteering were almost daily activities. I didn’t know any other way. So now, I feel blessed to have the opportunity through my work to participate in neighborhood activities and events, as well as volunteer my time toward causes important to creating a vibrant, thriving community.
  • What feeds your soul? How do you recharge? I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping others reach their potential. Others might find peace and fulfillment from creating music or enjoying a gourmet meal.

The key is to find a job that lets you live the way you want to live and contribute to society in a way that brings you a sense of purpose.

Then and now

I can’t write an article about working at the same company for 25 years without a few amusing then-and-now comparisons.

  • Back in 1995, I was hired as the 77th employee. Since then, we have grown to 265 people.
  • Then, we had four locations. In fact, we had just expanded to four locations. Now we have 15 locations spread across three counties.
  • Twenty-five years ago, banks were all about teller lines inside lobbies, ATMs were just starting to gain popularity, and most currency was handled by paper check. There were no debit cards. These days, plastic is the most common way to spend money and digital is gaining ground fast. Especially with the restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, people are now handling many of their banking transactions online or using an app on their smartphone.
  • Our bank has grown in 25 years. Banks are measured by the total assets we take care of. We have grown from $140 million to $1.5 billion — with a B.
  • My personal life has changed dramatically also! My wife and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this year. But perhaps the biggest change is that we now have five children, including two sets of twins.

With all that change, it’s nice to know that some things do still stay the same. Regardless of total assets, our bank is still grounded in authentic relationships and personal service. It will always be important to treat people the way you yourself would want to be treated. And, personally, despite my family growing exponentially, I still live in the same house I moved into 25 years ago!

Find your fit. Find your fun.

My dad used to say, “Find something that gets you excited to put your feet on the ground every morning.” To be honest, most of my thoughts about work and attitude about life are the result of wise words from my father. He used to shower me with advice when we were fishing whether I asked for it or not. I think he enjoyed the captive audience a small boat on a quiet lake provided.

Of course, he knew what he was talking about. Funny story: Someone in HR had to remind me that it was my 25-year anniversary. I guess time flies when you’re having fun!

Jim Tubbs is president and CEO at State Bank of Cross Plains (SBCP).

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