With this being the last blog of the year, it seems apt to be a bit reflective on what Career actually means.
I first posted this blog a few years ago. It’s one of my favourites and the sentiments still hold true. I have added a new piece at the end as to how we might best put these sentiments into action, by way of my own take on the 10 Commandments of Career.
Career is more than the ‘day job.’
Careers are messy. The career ladder has been replaced by the climbing wall, with more sidewards, and even downwards moves before we move up.
Work life balance has been replaced with a work life blend as more of us work from home and the line between work and home is increasingly blurred.
Choosing a career for life has been kicked aside to give way to deciding on which job for now.
We bring all of ourselves to our day job, not just the skills, knowledge, and experience, but also our aspirations, our backgrounds, our histories, and our influences.
We have ‘whole lives’ so we need ‘whole careers’.
What is Career then?
“"The full expression of who you are, and how you want to be in the world, which keeps on expanding as it naturally goes through cycles of stability and change.”
(Feller and Franklin)
I first came across this definition when I travelled to Canada a few years ago to train in a coaching technique based on Narrative Based Assessment.
My first impressions were that the wording was a bit vague for my eager left brain, which likes concepts to be clear and defined. But on unravelling it, I came to appreciate the depth and practicality of this description.
The ‘full expression of who you are’ requires a level of self-awareness. To understand and appreciate my strengths. Not just my skills, knowledge, and experience, but my personality, my values and who and what influences my life decisions. Then we have the ‘how you want to be in the world’. This is more than just goals, dreams and aspirations. It’s about the different parts that make up a life. What roles do I want to play? What big things do I want for my life? And what small step can I take now?
And of course, recognising that this is not a constant. Our lives naturally go through cycles of stability and change.
We have different thoughts at different stages of our life:
“What I want in my third job is not what I wanted in my first job.”
“My ideal job is less ideal when my first child is born.”
“The day job is great, but I want something different.”
“Work, is just not working for me at the moment.”
My plan was perfect, until life got in the way.
Stability and change are part of human nature. There are times when the journey is smooth and hassle free. And there are times when we hit roadblocks, faulty signals and flat tyres.
It may be at any given time, that your career is more about what you are doing outside of the workplace than within it. Finding a meaningful intersection between personal life and professional life gives us two shots at having fulfilment in what we do. There are times when the day job is going well, and we come home satisfied. Yes, it was tough, but the day was a good one when we got to bring the best bits of ourselves to the job.
And there are days when the day job is miserable. At these times we do well to understand where else outside of our day job we can get a bit of our best selves.
That’s why career is more than the day job.
- Working towards your next promotion, is career.
- Volunteering for community support programme, is career.
- Learning a new skill, is career.
- Coaching the U14 football team, is career.
- Anything where we pushed ourselves to be our better selves, is career.
So with this in mind, as we round off the year, I leave you with my own take on…..
The 10 Commandments of Career.
1. Own your Career.
“If it’s to be, it’s up to me”.
It’s not the responsibility of the company or the role of your manager to grow your career. Yes, they should support you, but the hard work must be done by you.
Self-awareness is the superpower of those who super charge their careers. Have a robust understanding of what you want from your career and what you can offer. We covered this extensively in our blog series on 6 Signposts to New Career Ideas .
3. Grow yourself.
The job of career is never fully done. Keep growing, keep learning. At the end of every year ask yourself:
- What new knowledge have I acquired?
- What new skills have I learnt?
- What new contacts have I made?
4. Stay in control.
Control what you can in your career and let go of what you can’t. You can always control what you think and what you do. What others think and do is out of your ball game.
5. Manage your expectations.
It’s called work for a reason. No matter how great (or awful) your job is, there will be good days and bad days. More on this in the blog It's called 'work' for a reason.
6. Play the long game.
You don’t have to achieve everything right here, right now. Yes, have a big goal for where you want to be, but focus on the next small step and be comfortable with the pace and the path of your journey.
7. Have help.
Don’t do it on your own. Have good fellow travellers. Have someone for fun, someone for empathy and someone for action.
8. Embrace change.
Have a plan but be prepared to ditch the plan. Eisenhower once said that “plans were useless, but that planning was indispensable”. This was the subject of the last blog post All Change.
9. Value your career.
Take pride in your career, however humble it might be. Whether you work three days a week as a forklift driver or run a multinational corporation. Find purpose in what you do and take pride in the value you bring to someone, somewhere each day.
10. Start again.
‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been.’ – as famously quoted by the author George Elliot. The messy, changing nature of today’s career offers the opportunity of many new beginnings. Don’t be scared to embrace one!
As always, thanks for reading.
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