Does Your Career Meet Your Personal Needs?
- A 31-year-old career changer has made a proposal to a company: “On paper, it doesn’t look like I have the experience, but I know I have the skills you need. I’ll work on an intern’s salary for four weeks, and then you decide if you want to hire me.”
- An entry-level professional hasn’t gotten around to getting a business card. “I look for people doing interesting work in a company, and then I sell my skills to them,” he says.
- A 35-year-old single mother has decided to trade in the security of her government job to pursue her dream of becoming an entertainer. “I’ve saved some money and put together a business plan. We’ll live on very little. It may be risky, but I don’t want to wake up 10 years from now wondering what would’ve happened ‘if,’ ” she says.
Be Who You Are
These professionals are demonstrating “career activism.” This concept involves:
- Having a vision of yourself as worthy of meaningful work and a fulfilling personal life.
- Understanding that your work is an intimate expression of your needs, values and talents.
- Refusing to hang up your personality at the door of your employer.
- Being prepared to make tough decisions so you don’t have to deny important aspects of yourself in your work.
Indeed, the most common career issue professionals struggle with are: How can I express my “authentic self” in my work? How can I find or do what’s right for me, that’s true to my individuality?
The Only Certainty Is You
Being a career activist means thinking about the landscape of work and opportunities in a radically different way. It means being prepared to live in an uncertain work world where the only certainty is you: your skills, your flexibility and your capacity to adapt to change. This requires optimism and a belief in yourself. Career activism means:
- Thinking in creative and novel ways about the employment market. This means refusing to accept conventional wisdom about how you should manage your career and what you should want to achieve in your career.
- Looking at all aspects of life — personal, educational and professional — as providing opportunities for expression and satisfaction. One domain is not necessarily better than another.
- Becoming an independent agent — defining yourself in terms and concepts that are separate from your job title, your organization or what other people think you should be.
- Writing your own script rather than waiting for someone to write it for you.
- Viewing yourself as being in an egalitarian relationship with your employer or client. You have in-demand skills and choices. You’re choosing to rent your skills to your employer not only in exchange for income but also to meet other personal needs. If those needs aren’t met, you’ll vote with your feet and find another employer or client.
- Seeing yourself as worthy of being protected and ensuring that no work environment abuses your right to feel good about yourself.
- Acting as your own talent agent. Being vigilant on your own behalf — identifying and preparing for opportunities rather than expecting anyone else to guide you along or promote your interests.
- Being entrepreneurial — looking for opportunities and taking risks.
- Doing work that’s true to your individual nature and that supports your most important values and life commitments.
Becoming an activist is the key to your career success. The only security you can depend on is knowing that your skills are strong, current and marketable, and that you have the inner resources to manage through the ups and downs of life. To be a successful career activist, you need to understand the external economic and social landscape, educating yourself about changing work realities and knowing what you need to do to ensure your marketability. But you also need to be attuned to your own internal, personal world. What do you care about? What gives your life meaning? Only then can you think about yourself and your career differently. You can rise above the frenetic pace of your work life to make choices that suit your own agenda.