Coffee Talk: Building a Career
Starting out in the work world, I didn’t have much of a focus. I had a job and a paycheck. Honestly, I thought work would be something that I did until I started a family. Finding a career – something I loved, was good at and could grow in as opposed to just work – was not what I expected. Here are a few things I’ve thought about over the years, lessons learned and tips for career planning over the long-term.
Determine values. For me, this took lots of trial-and-error, not just introspection. I have to actually do something to learn it’s not part of my value system. An exec I knew used to say that you can choose two of three main areas: money, prestige or work-life balance. As much as we talk about having it all, and as much as I’ve tried to prove that idea wrong, I have to admit they are right. It’s easy to think that the next raise is all that matters – or was for me at least. But given that we all probably spend more time working than doing anything else in our lives, it’s actually much more important for me to have satisfaction from what I do. For me, knowing that I’ve helped connect people to something deeper or fulfilling their goals is what keeps me going. But it might be something different for others.
There are phases. Everything has a time. In the start of your career it might be compensation that makes the biggest difference to you, then later it might be work-life-balance or prestige…it’s not always about being strong on all fronts. I loved this article by Zosia Mamet because she acknowledged that we all have different definitions of winning and things don’t have to be all one way all the time. Spot-on.
If something isn’t working, change it. If you aren’t fully satisfied or stimulated with what you are doing, change it up. That doesn’t necessarily mean leave, though! It means look for something you can learn from – join a committee to gain leadership skills, take on a new project that stretches you or say yes to something you might have said no to before. And talk with your boss to let them know you have more to contribute (in a non-whiney way). The best move I ever made was telling a supervisor early on that I wanted to contribute more to the team as I wasn’t fully challenged. This led to me being able to write articles and interact with the press…and ultimately a promotion that put me on the pat to fining my career.
How do you approach your career? What do you think about the choose-two theory? Are you stimulated by what you do? Would love to know in the comments below! : )