Is your job something you do in between weekends? If the answer to that question is yes… Then for the love of God, do not, under any circumstances, apply for a job to work with me. If TGIF is your motto, I’m not the person you ever want to work with.
I’m not being rude or anything like that. The task of putting food on the table is a struggle. You may even have to stick it out in a few jobs that you don’t like to meet your day-to-day needs. We’ve all been there. If you’re in your mid-20s and you still haven’t been through that experience, then you must be a prince, a princess or a fairy godmother.
You may not like the things I say, but the truth is, I’m not interested in being everyone’s cup of tea; and besides I’ve always been more of a coffee kind of person.
Coming back to my earlier point–there’s nothing wrong with working to put food on the table. In fact, it’s honourable to be responsible for yourself. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and be realistic about our expectations. But if you want to move past that work-for-a-living paradigm–what you must have is a dream, a vision and a goal. All three ingredients are necessary to unlock the door to living a life that is in alignment with your highest potential.
So, you had a big fancy title at a big fancy company. Over time, you began to define your identity by that title and by your role in that company. But is that really who you are? Is that the true potential of your soul? I can actually hear you saying no.
Whether you’re reimagining your business or rethinking your present career trajectory–the same rules apply when you’re making a transition.
People complicate what career actually is. For me, it all boils down to three things: the people, the place and the ecosystem. If we get this wrong, we wither. But once we get this right… we flourish.
The People We Work With
Our relationships with the people we work with, for, and under create the cornerstone of our career identity. This includes our bosses, colleagues, employees as well as our clients and customers. Most of us have a preference regarding the sorts of people we enjoy working with. More often than not, we will have to find and contend with that proverbial middle ground.
The ideal situation is to be surrounded by people we absolutely adore working with. But in a work setting, we have to be comfortable dealing with a variety of characters. Some we will gel with more easily than others. Don’t get lost in the details and focus on the big picture. If you have a boss, a subordinate or a client that is driving you absolutely nuts, ask yourself why. Most of the time, it’s rooted in a clash of the core values that we hold dear.
Every organisation has its own core values that functions as an inner compass that guides the individual and the enterprise towards its goals. A clash of values is non-negotiable. A clash of personalities, however, is pretty much unavoidable. I have seen and experienced this even in the most cohesive and well-knit teams.
With communication, patience and understanding, we can get past our personal differences. What is near impossible to reconcile is a clash in the fundamental values that drive us. Ask yourself which situation is applicable to you. From there, you can decide what to do next.
The Place We Work At
Zoom has virtually become ‘a place’. But prior to the COVID pandemic, the question of place was (is?) a key criteria that allowed us to actualise the environment in which we can be our best. If you don’t like sitting at a desk all day, an office job is not for you–no matter how skilled and talented you are.
Describe the environment where you’d ideally like to work. Is it a bustling atmosphere or a quiet corner–or perhaps it is a bit of both? Does your job require or allow you to travel? How often and to where? Adapting to on-the-job changes comes with accepting the challenges along with the perks. You probably won’t get a 100% fit. If you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder, then expect that along with your responsibilities; the environment that you deal with on a daily basis will change, too.
You can, and should, brainstorm who you are in terms of your preferred environment. Would you prefer a global or a local environment? I recently worked with a staff member who simply couldn’t get used to working with people from different cultures. Despite the fact that we were working remotely and over Zoom, the person in question would not–or perhaps could not–adapt to the changing environment that the organisation found itself in.
If you’d prefer local, then own it. If you’d prefer global, then embrace it.
The Ecosystem We Work In
The people and place define the ecosystem in which we flourish. If you’re working in any sort of team, the likelihood is that you’ll have to work with people who are significantly different to you so that you can collaborate. To make the optimum decision, there are two options.
Firstly, you can pick the field that interests you; which in turn can lead you to discovering the types of people you prefer to work with and the types of people you should be working with. The two are not mutually exclusive, but in my experience, they are often not the same. For instance, if you’re a partner in a law firm, you’ll be surrounded by other lawyers. On the other hand, if you were an in house counsel at an organisation, you’d be working with a significantly different bunch of people on a daily basis.
Secondly, you can choose the people you want to work with; and based on that, you can select a career that is best-suited to you. In the early days of my career, I was in a situation where I had a job that I loved, but discovered the hard way that that industry attracted highly toxic, frustrating and just downright irritating people. In situations such as this, it is worth working backwards. Think about the people you’d like to work and then choose a career based on that. Let’s say, for instance, you’re a writer. Perhaps you love working with creatives. Or perhaps you’d rather write for The Business Times. Both of these choices will expose you to a different community of people.
Most of the time, an adjustment needs to be made with regards to the field you’ve chosen and the people it seems to attract. To work in a thriving ecosystem, you need to be in the right industry in the right role. Working in the right ecosystem is about knowing where–and with whom–you can utilise your skills in the best possible way. This requires a great deal of trial-and-error. It takes a year to develop any sort of true insight into a career and what it requires to flourish in that ecosystem.
Your dream job in university can be a nightmare in real life. The ideals that get shoved down our throat in our late teens and early twenties often have no chance of manifesting into a real-world reality.
To create the career of your dreams requires a certain level of perseverance and grit–not daydreaming and fantasising.
Until you try it out, you just won’t know. And until you stick it out, you won’t truly know. So put yourself out there and discover it for yourself. In my experience, you’ll inevitably discover that you’re not who you thought you were.
So perhaps it’s not your business or your career you need to reimagine… but yourself.