Expectations Versus Standards

By Lynzie Nebel

I am not a fan of graduation speeches, TED Talks, or any other lecture that includes the phrase “follow your passion.” I think it is one of the most useless and overrated phrases people lean on to make you think they're really onto something. Now, before you assume I'm a work‐hating passion‐free person, let me explain my train of thought (Godspeed to you, dear Reader).

I recently read an article for CNBC by Tess Brigham titled “Why Young People Hate Their Jobs So Much.” While I didn't agree with the entire thing, one point that stuck out to me was the distorted view people have when it comes to expectations and standards.

To summarize, she said an expectation is an opinion about how things should go. It's not usually based on any fact. A standard is a fact‐ or experience‐based threshold someone will use to base their judgement and decisions. Her assessment that people need to “lower their expectations and raise their standards” is absolutely on point.

Let's start with raising your standards. This means making sure you know the going salary for someone of your experience and insisting on that as your minimum. It could mean making sure your title matches your qualifications or your goals within that company. Sometimes setting your standards is about things you can't quantify. The type of work environment, your boss's personality, your company's culture, and similar things are all part of the standards you can (and should) establish.

Expectations, however, are a whole new ballgame. Expect that there will be bad days sometimes. Expect that some days you will work on a task that is not your favorite. Expect that there are going to be people who just bug you. The beauty of expecting these things to happen is that: 1) These things happen at every job. You're not going to find the unicorn job that has no irksome tasks, people, or days. If you do, HOLD ON AND NEVER LET GO; and 2) if you know these blips are coming, it makes your ability to deal with and overcome these circumstances that much better.

If your standards are set high and your expectations are set low, you're putting yourself into a position that is almost guaranteed to bring you job satisfaction. Maybe that doesn't solve all your problems, but it sure makes it easier to focus on what you want out of your career.

About the Author

Lynzie Nebel is SPE's VP‐Young Professionals and a Plastics Engineer at Tech Tank. She graduated from Penn State‐Erie with a B.S. in Plastics & Polymer Engineering Technology/Technician. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Daniel, sons, Henry Ulysses and Samuel Clarence, and 2 very fat ginger cats — Richard Dreypuss & Ralphie Templeton.