Today is National Dog Day, which means that you’re probably reading this in between oohing and ahhing over puppy photos on Instagram. If you’re supposed to be working, hopefully you’re doing that, as well. Either way, you can chalk today up as a win for career advancement, because it turns out that Man and Woman’s Best Friend has plenty to teach you about how to build your best career.
- Make your own job.
The stereotype is that dogs are lovable, but dumb: “Old Fido, he’s a sweetie, but if you put a blanket over him, he thinks it’s nighttime.” Well, you might want to reassess that assumption, because, as it turns out, dogs actually domesticated us.
“Most likely, it was wolves that approached us, not the other way around, probably while they were scavenging around garbage dumps on the edge of human settlements,” write Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods at National Geographic. “The wolves that were bold but aggressive would have been killed by humans, and so only the ones that were bold and friendly would have been tolerated.”
In other words, dogs evolved into adorable muppets, so that we’d take care of them … and in the process, they stopped having to fight for their meals.
You can learn from this at your work. Don’t assume that today’s job description is tomorrow’s destiny. If you want your job to be something that’s less harrowing and more enjoyable, ask for projects that interest you, make connections with people who do things you want to do … and evolve toward a new role.
- When you take time off, really take time off.
Have you ever watched a dog sleep? With the exception of the occasional rabbit-chasing dream, they’re pretty much out. You’ll never see a dog lying on his dog bed, checking email on a Saturday morning.
OK, they can’t read and don’t have thumbs, but also, they’re secretly pretty Zen creatures. A dog knows how to be here now. He’s not thinking about the future or the past. If he could book a trip to Maui, you better believe he wouldn’t be taking phone calls from the boss while he was there.
Be like your dog: when you unplug, really unplug. Your disposition might not become as sunny as that of the average golden retriever, but it will improve, and your boss and coworkers will probably notice.
- Be loyal … but be most loyal to yourself.
If you’re sad, your dog knows it, and goes out of his way to cheer you up … but if he wants bacon, your whole emotional situation can wait, buddy.
Dogs know how to prioritize. They do their job—providing unconditional love and support, in their case—but they also look out for themselves. There’s a good lesson here, especially if you’re someone who is helpful to a fault at work, and that is that you have to keep your own goals in mind. Get the bacon.
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