Posts Tagged Jobs

Abandoning the idea of a traditional career: Here’s why I’m doing it

Before I give you the break down of why the traditional  “career” thing isn’t for me, let me give you the back story:

For two years I have beat myself up over not knowing how to answer the “What do you want to do” question.  Two. years.  I prayed that the answer would appear to me magically. I looked for signs, I read book-after-book, and when I fell asleep at night, I would close my eyes and wish with all my might that when I woke up in the morning I would know. That I would have an answer. That I would finally be able to tell people “THIS!” “This is exactly what I want to do!”

It never happened.

I continued to berate myself and wonder, “what is wrong with me?”  If you have felt this way before, you know it is suffocating and the ultimate embodiment of living your life through limiting beliefs.  It wasn’t a good feeling.  At the time I didn’t know what to do, so I soldiered on.

So, how did I reach the point where I decided being on a career path was no longer for me?
Strangely, it happened when I was having a conversation with a friend who has pretty much known what she’s wanted to do her entire life. (Don’t you just hate those people?) We were talking about job stuff when she started questioning me as to the next steps I planned on taking in my career. I pondered this question for a second, before rambling off a list of attributes that I would like a job to have, and the particular skills I would like to use.  My friend stopped me. “Amber,” she said. “Those are not job titles. What title do you want to have?”
I told her I didn’t know.
She went into the whole “ What are your passions? Your goals? Your strengths” routine.
She even told me to take a moment to write these down.
I laughed.
Because I’ve been making that same, damn list for two years.

I told her that I had been there, and done that. She asked me what conclusion did I come to. Again I rambled off a list of characteristics. I could tell she was getting frustrated with me.  I was getting a little frustrated with her, honestly. I mean, it’s not like I had not already asked myself these same questions. Why couldn’t she accept my answers?   Then she said, “So…you don’t want a career…you just want a job?” And I said, “Hmm…I want meaningful experiences that I can make money from.”

That, people, is when the light bulb went off.

Finally, I got  it. No, I don’t want a set career, there is no set title I am aiming for, to me that means nothing. I want experiences I can be happy about, experiences that I can profit from, and experiences that leave me feeling as if I am making some type of difference in the world.

So what changed?
As I have continued to spend time working in environments that embody the spirit of ladder-climbing, I’ve grown stronger in my beliefs that it is okay to look for a life outside of the narrow confines of how our society determines what is “normal”, and what you should do.

There are some people out there who want to climb to the highest rungs of the corporate ladder, gathering accolades as they shimmy along. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if that’s your thing.  But if that’s not your thing, if you’ve never really wanted a corner office, then guess what? That is okay too!

A career does not have to mean a set trajectory. For the so many people out there trying to figure it all out, and asking themselves daily, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” I say, stop it.  Let it go. You are not going to figure out tomorrow, or today what you want to do with the rest of your life. But, you can figure out what your next experience should be.  And if you are smart enough, which I know all of you ARE, then you will figure out how to profit from that experience. You will take the experience, embrace it, and embody it. You will effin’ own your experience. No ladder needed.

Now, the experiences that you string together may have titles.For example, one day I hope to be the creator and editor of an online magazine, but I harbor no illusions of thinking that will be the only experience for me, for the rest of my life.

It all goes back to not defining yourself by the job that you do. Embrace your uncertainty and run with it. If you happen to stumble upon something you think you can do for a while, hey, go for it! And be comforted in knowing that when you are ready for something new, it is totally possible. Live life and enjoy your experiences. Those are the things that will really shape you as a person.

Got something to add? I would love to hear it.
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Ask “WHY” It can help you move forward

Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself  why you do what you do?

This question could apply to any endeavour you are currently working on, but for the sake of this post, let’s think about that one activity that probably keeps you busy most of the day. You know, the one that breaks you off a check every two weeks.

So, now that we have this activity in mind, let me ask you this: why do you do it?
If you answer has anything to do with the money, I want to urge you to dig a little deeper.

Let me backtrack: Last year while I was unemployed, I attended a week’s worth of free workshops under the guise of New York Entrepreneur Week. You know how when you go to a conference or workshop, you learn so much and you get super hype, but then you basically do a brain dump and forget it all?  Well, that happened to me too with the exception of this one workshop.  I left with a souvenir from the speaker. A little coin that looks like this:

My rough sketch, but you get the idea!

The speaker was Simon Sinek. He is the author of a book called “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. The premise is that in order to be great, and to lead effectively, you need to ask yourself: Why you do what you do?  His book focuses primarily on organizations, but the knowledge can be applied to individuals as well. After all, you are your own personal brand. And you need to know WHY you do what you do.

From the Amazon summary of the book:
” Any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why. WHY is not money or profit– those are always results. WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers really buy from one company or another? WHY are people loyal to some leaders, but not others?

Starting with WHY works in big business and small business, in the nonprofit world and in politics. Those who start with WHY never manipulate, they inspire. And the people who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to.”

My WHY Moment:  So Simon talked to us about this idea of why it is important to ask yourself why you do what you do. He gave us examples (think Mac vs. PC) of how companies that are really in tune with WHY they do WHAT they do, are successful. It’s why once you go Mac, you never go back. Apple knows why it does what they do, therefore, they are able to do it well.

I was so intrigued by this idea, that I had to speak with Simon after the workshop. I approached him with my dilemma: “Simon,” I said. “I’m tired of people putting me in a box because I am a writer. Anytime someone hears that I write, they think that is all I can do.”

He looks at me for a second then said: “So stop telling people you are a writer.”
Hmmm…. “What?”
“Why do you like to write?” he asked me.
I go into a long spiel about how it’s not so much that I like writing, but I like to connect with people. I love to tell stories. I enjoy helping people get their stories out there. Writing, for me, is just the vehicle I am currently using to do what I really love to do which is: tell stories.

“So tell people you are a storyteller, “ Simon said.

Well, dang. It never occurred to me before that moment that this is true, I am, primarily, a storyteller.  That the thing that makes me most happy is telling stories. Snap! What a revelation.

I’ve been carrying around the coin Simon gave me for over a year now. And anytime I feel puzzled about a new project, or confused as to what direction I should move in, I remember the coin. I challenge myself to start with “Why”  I’ve found that when you start with the “why” you can move into the “how” and the “what” with some clarity.  And remember, money is just a result, it’s not a reason (I know, I know, easier said than done. Especially when you are thinking about paying back those college loans!)

Your WHY moment:So, why do you do what you do? And if you aren’t doing what you know you WANT to do, what’s you latest idea? Think about why you are drawn to it. The how and the what will appear in focus.

Amber’s note: If you think this post could help someone you know, please share! And if you need a little Monday morning motivation, please subscribe :)

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Finding the Value in Your Skills

A few days ago, I was blog surfing when I stumbled across a post that made me do some thinking out loud.

The majority of this person’s post was about changing job descriptions in the work place.  The author expressed his sentiment that sometimes your job can include more tasks than the job description outlined, perhaps even some duties you really didn’t bargain for. Now, we all know this happens. And sometimes it provides an opportunity skills that you can use later you to leverage your way into a new position. That is thinking smart.

However; this person went on to say that you need to do whatever your company tells you to do because you should be grateful that you have a job.  As a worker bee, you should haul ass to help the company pull through in these (wait for it, I’m about insert a buzz phrase here) “tough economic times” because it is not only your duty to save yourself, you must save the company too.

The same company that probably wouldn’t have a problem tossing you out on your hinny cheeks when times get rough.

Which brings up the question: when does getting more experience start to turn into the company getting over on you? We all know that sometimes we have to do things that are not officially in our job description, yes. But at what point are you being undervalued and well, cheated?

Outside of robbing us of a sense of security, I believe this recession has also robbed some people of their personal moral. Getting laid off hurts. Searching for months to find a job hurts. In the midst of it all, it is natural to start to question your skills, but at some point you have to lift yourself up.  And most importantly, I think you have to remember that you have options. They might be harder to find, but options are out there.

Sometimes we do have to work at jobs we don’t want to do to make money. Believe me, I get that (remind me to tell you all about my temp jobs!), but at some point you have to value yourself and your skills. The company should be happy to have YOU. Yes, times are tough right now, but that doesn’t mean you need to put up with being ill-treated, right?

What do you think?  How are you reminding yourself that your skills are valuable?

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