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Building a Career You Don’t Want to Leave


January 20, 2023

It’s been said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Finding a job with challenges that excite you, surrounding yourself with people you respect, and committing to your values can help you find a career you may never want to leave. 

People often ask me about retirement planning. As I’ve reached “a certain age,” those questions have shifted to when I want to retire myself. 

Questions about building a confident retirement are in my wheelhouse. After decades in the industry, I’ve built teams that generated double-digit increases in sales, hired and trained salespeople who rose to top positions throughout the industry and personally qualified for life membership in the “Million Dollar Round Table.” 

Questions about when I want to retire? It’s a simple answer. “Never.” 

I have had a great career with much to look back on and be grateful for, including the experiences and mentors in my life. There was one mentor in particular that influenced the way I lead and drastically shaped my career. From a young age, my dad inspired me to be the type of employee and person he was — dedicated, honest and hard-working. Seeing my dad influence students as a teacher and coach reminded me the importance of knowing what matters to you, surrounding yourself with good people and finding what brings you joy in your career.  

Although I am forever thankful for my dad’s influence, I am at the point in my career where I want to spend more time looking forward. As the company continues to grow, I continue to practice the lessons my dad has taught me and instill the same lessons throughout my team and the individuals within.  

Know What Matters to You 

Part of practicing those lessons is learning how focusing on my own career and character development can help the company in the long run. 

For instance, over the years I’ve developed “the core characteristics of greatness,” which are values I have and respect in others, like work ethic, integrity and listening skills. Knowing these values has provided stability in uncertain times and has led me to the people I know I can succeed with. I encourage business owners, bosses and managers to consider their core characteristics as they navigate recruiting and retaining employees. I genuinely believe a group of people with strong values can do anything. 

Build Your Network 

Another powerful way to have a rewarding career is to build a network you can count on. As I mentioned, my dad was my first mentor who taught me to work hard and keep out of trouble. And believe me, if I got into trouble, he was prepared to deliver the consequences! 

In college, I developed skills to deal with people. I recruited members to the fraternity, was on the student senate and was president of the student athletic council. Even now, the skills I built and the people I met, continue to help in my career. By staying connected, your next opportunity can come from nearly anywhere. 

Find What Brings You Joy 

I’ve often said I’m lucky because I get to do what I love with people I respect. It truly is the great joy of my life to see others succeed. If you think about anything you’ve worked hard for and finally accomplished, you probably felt pretty happy. But there was likely someone who supported you who felt even better. My dad retired as a teacher and coach, and he wanted the same for me. While I didn’t follow in his footsteps, I did become a teacher and coach in the roles I play. It’s what I love doing, so why would I stop? 

Whether you’re just joining the workforce or a seasoned professional looking to jump-start your second act, you’re right on time. Building a career — and a life — you love starts when you consider what brings you joy, surround yourself with people you care about and live according to your values. 

Another great step? Consider joining Athene. As a rapidly growing company that helps people build confident retirements, your possibilities could be limitless.  

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Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Chris Grady

Chris Grady is the Executive Vice President, Head of Sales at Athene USA in West Des Moines, Iowa.