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  • Heather McManus

✍🏼Guest Post: "How I Found Work That Aligns with My Values"

Well folks, we've got a special treat for you 🍭 Today we have the pleasure of sharing a guest post with you, written by the one and only Heather McManus, our amazing Marketing Manager here at Stillwater. Her story is a relatable and inspiring must-read for anyone unsure if their job is the right fit for them.

Women contemplating, leaning against wall

Take a Job, Any Job

When I finished university in my early 20’s, I was just grateful to have a job. My coworkers were fun, I got a steady paycheque, I had a business card with my name on it, and I could go to the dentist again for the first time in years. I felt like a grown up. Even if I was racking up credit card debt paying for all my new office clothes, I was covering my own rent and commuting with the commuters and buying a Starbucks latte every morning like everybody else did. I certainly wasn’t thinking about my purpose, or what my work really meant, or why the heck I was putting in so much overtime.

I did well at work. I did all the things I was supposed to and then got promoted and made (a bit) more money. But about 7 years in, the lustre of the shiny paycheque had long worn off and I started to ask myself, “Is this it? Is this what I’m going to do for the rest of my life? What’s it all for?”

I know I’m not alone in this feeling. When The Great Resignation had 40% of employees considering leaving their jobs in 2021 (McKinsey and Co.), I bet there were more than a few of them asking “What’s the point?”. Maybe it was turning 30 and realizing that time was in fact passing by and that I wouldn’t be young forever that made me yearn for something more from my job. I spent so much of my life working and I wanted that time to matter. I wanted to matter.

Searching For More

I’d always admired this local home health care company that had a reputation for having a great culture and were always touting their vision statement, “Making Lives Better,” at every networking event in the city. So when a marketing role came up with them, I decided to apply. Making Lives Better sounded meaningful and rewarding and like just what I was looking for. After a rigorous interview process to ensure I was a good culture fit, I got the job.

Pretty much immediately, I realized it was a huge mistake. On paper I was a great fit with my background in marketing and franchising, but I’d apparently put on the performance of a lifetime convincing them that my values aligned with the company’s. Of course I care about people, but not in the same way that everyone else there did. All my coworkers seemed to have a personal connection with the brand - an elderly grandparent who had benefited from home care or an aspiration to someday become a nurse when they saved up enough for tuition by working in the call centre. They were so invested in what the company was doing that they would wear brand colours to work every day and beg for swag when new branded merch came into the office. They were more than employees, they were advocates, believers. They were a tight-knit family working toward a common mission, and I was an outsider.

In high school, all of those career assessments I took to help me choose a future job always came out with helping professions at the bottom of the list. They’d practically screamed “Do not become a nurse!”, so what was I doing working at a home care company? After a few months, it became clear to me that this wasn’t just about ‘new job discomfort’, there was a fundamental misalignment happening that was making me profoundly unhappy. It was time to do some soul searching. If this was not where I belonged, then where did I belong?

Doing the Real Work

When I’d made the decision to switch jobs, I hadn’t spent any time thinking about what it was that I wanted or what was important to me. To be honest, I didn’t even really know who I was. I enrolled in a class at The New School For Inspired Work to get some answers. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I came out of those classes changed. I was inspired and motivated and best of all, I had a clear sense of who I was, what I was good at and what kind of work would be meaningful to me. The instructor helped me to develop this personal vision statement:

“To live in a world where everyone feels valuable as they are.”

Even years later, it still rings true for me. As an introverted woman, I’ve dealt with my share of unwanted feedback, but nowhere have I felt the pressure to conform to a mould more than at work. Now, I take my vision to work with me - I incorporate it into my writing, my teaching and my approach to leadership. I want everyone around me to know that they can improve and grow without changing who they are at their core. What makes us different is something to be celebrated.

One of my values I discovered in that same course is Authenticity. So of course it made sense that I felt so uncomfortable working at a home care company where I didn’t belong. I don’t do Fake It Till You Make It. I had to get out of there. Although I worried about how it would look on my resume, I decided to leave my role after only 6 months and return to my old company who still hadn’t hired my replacement. I was able to negotiate a higher salary, increased flexibility and a more focused role that included the aspects of my old job that most closely aligned with my vision. I also looked for other opportunities outside my role that allowed me to find even more meaning and share some of the new things I'd learned about creating a great corporate culture. I became the co-founder of a women in leadership group and helped the company to create definitions for each of their existing corporate values so they could become clear and useful words that would empower and inspire employees to do their best work. When I look back at the 10 years I spent there, that’s the work I’m most proud of.

Work-Life Integration

A few years later, when life priorities had shifted, my husband and I decided to move to a small mountain town in Eastern British Columbia. We didn’t have jobs when we moved - the rent was cheap and we could work pretty much any minimum wage gig and get by. I worked at a coffee shop and learned to perfect my microfoam while I applied for jobs in my field. I ended up interviewing for two local marketing roles the same week. One was with a local hotel which seemed nicely aligned with my background in tourism, and the other with a training company who — well, I wasn’t sure exactly what they did. I was leaning toward the hotel job, but after the interviews were complete, my preference had completely reversed. The hotel culture was corporate and rigid. Employees had to clock in, were not allowed to work from home and not surprisingly, didn’t seem particularly happy to be there. The training company, by contrast, was progressive, flexible and passionate about helping people leverage their strengths and find their niche. I could work from home (pre-pandemic!) and even shift my start time to make a few runs on the ski hill on a powder day before starting work. I’d moved across the province and somehow landed a job that aligned with my values and integrated with the life I wanted to live. This was my dream.

During the interview, the owners asked me why I’d only stayed at the home care company for 6 months. I was happy to talk about it. It gave me the chance to tell this story and what I’d learned about my values from that whole experience. That may have even been what landed me the job. As a result, one of my first projects at Stillwater was to help them articulate their own Vision, Mission and Values. It’s kind of become my thing now.

Now that I’ve found my people and work that is meaningful to me, does that mean every work day is perfect? Of course not! Like all jobs, there are ups and downs, highs and lows, but I am never asked to be someone I’m not. I know that my contribution is valuable. Our company values get talked about daily as part of decision making or giving feedback, and everyone I work with is truly passionate about our vision of Changing Lives. Yes, it sounds oddly similar to Making Lives Better, but this time, I’m making lives better and supporting people in a way that feels aligned with who I am and what matters most to me.


Well, we hope you enjoyed our very first guest post. Thank you Heather!

If you're also on a quest to find work that aligns with your values, we've got great news for you. Our course, The Integrated Life: 5 Weeks to More Enjoyable Work, Authentic Living, and a Happier You, is kicking off another group coaching cohort soon and you have a chance to sign up today (LIMITED SPOTS AVAILABLE). This course offers students weekly live Zoom calls with the incredible instructor, Amy McInnes. It's a 5-week online course that will challenge you in ways you didn't think were possible. Amy's personable teaching style is addictive to watch and she presents her lessons in a way that really makes you stop, think and want to take action. It's truly inspiring! If you're ready to dive in, we invite you to sign up for the group coaching cohort of The Integrated Life: 5 Weeks to More Enjoyable Work, Authentic Living, and a Happier You.

If you want to get a sneak peak of Amy's teaching style, listen to her free audio course, 23 Minutes to a Happier Workday. Happy listening!


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