Most likely, you started out on your career path wanting so much from life and expecting great things. Now you look back and see that your job probably does not have everything included on your original want list. You may have set out seeking a specific title or a position at a certain organization, but the truth of the matter is that you have become discontent with your career trajectory. That is right, your job is not what you want.
The world is full of things that we do not want. No one wants to see children go hungry. No one wants to see his or her loved ones suffer from disease. No one wants to be homeless, jobless, or friendless. Everyone wants to eat well (without gaining weight). Everyone wants to live a happy and healthy life. Everyone wants to have the two-car garage in the suburbs, to work from a home office, and to spend every weekend and all holidays surrounded by family and friends.
So why is it that 15.3 million children in America live without their necessary food? Why is that 8.3 million people in America are out of work and countless more are under-employed? Why is it that the average American is $7,697 in debt or more? It is quite simple, life is not about what you want.
Satisfaction in your work is not found in what you want but in what you make of your current situation. – Artisan Essentials Playbook
You want good things for yourself and others, but no amount of wanting will help you achieve those noble goals. More than 300 years ago, the Founding Fathers declared the unalienable rights of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." While they wanted happiness for all people, they understood that no one could guarantee such things. Instead the Constitution reads, "the pursuit of happiness." You will find happiness and all the other things you may want, not by simply wanting them, but by pursuing after them.
Your ideal job and the satisfaction you seek in your career is found while pursuing your end goal. It is found when you start the pursuit, while you are pursuing, and especially when you achieve the milestones you set for yourself. It requires a laser focus and determination to grasp for something more than what you already have. The secret is this: satisfaction in your work is not found in what you want but in what you make of your current situation.
7 Tips For a Successful Creative Career
As 2016 kicks off, I thought I would remind those struggling in their current place of employment with a few guidelines to help them evaluate their position and to take some practical steps towards pursuing their ideal job. In no particular order:
Get a Fresh Perspective
Before you make drastic life changes, sit down and determine exactly what you are looking for in your work. Are you looking for a better work environment? Different co-workers? A change in tasks and responsibilities? While it is easy to lump your feelings into a general state of frustration, single out different aspects of your career that you want to change. Take a step back. Talk to a trusted friend. It may be that your frustration is rooted in something minor that can be changed by simply talking to your boss or a fellow creative.
Make an Honest Self-Assessment
An important aspect of personal development is making a periodic, honest evaluation of your skills, habits and shortcomings. Think through the last few projects you have worked on and then identify areas that could have gone better. Do you need to work on inter-team communication? Do you need to plan projects better? Do you struggle with end-of-the-week apathy? Do you still procrastinate the tedious or difficult tasks? All of these things can be easily resolved once you honestly assess the state of your personal and professional life.
Plan Your Next Steps
Determine where you are and where you want to be. Are you an entry-level creative looking to tackle more ambitious projects? Do you want to start your own business? Do you simply want better working hours? The easiest way to get to the next level is to plot out the steps you need to take to accomplish your goal. You will not make it to the next level overnight, but writing down the different steps between where you are and where you want to be is an excellent way to break down the daunting task of a career change into manageable, attainable goals.
Work Towards a Promotion
In your evaluation, you may realize that you do not want to make a drastic career or professional life-change. What if you want to just make it to the next level in your current company? Observe the managers and creatives above you to see what they are responsible for and start training yourself to do their work. If you go above and beyond in your daily tasks, then you are preparing yourself for the next level. Ask yourself what you have to do to get to the next tier and then start building those characteristics into your life. Better yet, talk to your managers about your ambitions and ask them for advice on how to get that level. Make a mentor out of your boss.
Be Willing to Make Sacrifices
The American Dream says that if you work hard enough, you can start as a janitor for a company and end up as its CEO. That may be true in some cases, but your journey may not always move forward. In fact, you may have to move backward or laterally before resuming progress forward. You may have to start at an entry-level job again; you may need to do pro-bono work or take an unpaid internship to get your foot in the door with the dream team. While this may look like a setback, it may be a necessary step to get you where you want to be.
Keep a List of Goals
Whether or not you make resolutions every year, keep a list of goals you are working toward. The goals can be as simple as "read one new book a month" or "call friends more often." At the end of a year or two, you can look back at that list and see the your personal progress. Business guru Seth Godin says,
Repeating easy tasks again and again gets you not very far. Attacking only steep cliffs where no progress is made isn’t particularly effective either. No, the best path is an endless series of difficult (but achievable) hills. – Seth Godin
So make a list of those attainable goals. You may be surprised how much you accomplish. Try the Seinfeld Method and make your goal punch card as beautiful as your Github commit history.
Focus on What Really Matters
At the end of the day, it is important to remember what really matters in life – people. You may have the opportunity to land that perfect job, but if it takes you away from the important people in your life, or if it prioritizes a profit over meeting a customer's needs, then it may not be worth the pay and prestige. Whatever it is that you want, develop laser-like focus on that and then take daily steps to obtaining it.
Summa ea omnia
Deciding what you want from your career is a messy, complicated process that takes time, preparation, and advice. We live in an era that is faster paced and more connected than ever, so it is easy to become discouraged when we do not see immediate results to our solutions. By taking the time to evaluate our desires and then to develop attainable goals, we can greatly enhance our personal and professional lives one step at a time. Get started on your list today and make this year the best one yet for your career.