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 The career ladder has been replaced by the climbing wall, with more sidewards, and even downwards moves before we move up.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 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”
I first came across this definition when I travelled to Canada a couple of years ago to train in a coaching technique based on Narrative Based Assessment.
Initially I found the wording 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 the 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 a 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.