“To tell a good story, to a pretty girl, in a bar…” At 22, that summed up the purpose of my life.
So, I was able to recognize my first “career crisis” in a very tangible way: I came home one night and told a friend, “I’ve got to get a new job; my stories stink…”
As any psychologist will tell you, this was classic needs-based decision-making. To quickly summarize: Needs-based Decision-Making implies that everything we do, every decision we make, is designed to meet one or more of 6 basic human needs:
- Certainty | security, safety, the ability to avoid pain
- Uncertainty | change, variety, excitement
- Significance | to matter, be important, be unique
- Community/Love | relationships; with yourself and others
- Growth | to learn, evolve
- Contribution | to give back; give of yourself
While everyone must meet at least the first four needs (Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance, Love – the “Fundamental Needs” as they are referred) most people will prioritize two at various stages in their life. Looking back on my 20s, my priorities were clearly Significance and Certainty (needs, incidentally, that many other “high-potential” 20-somethings tend to prioritize during this period as well.)
Starting my career in New York City only exacerbated this…in a “City” full of extraordinary people, I found my niche – my confidence, my sense of uniqueness – in telling stories. And, well, when the pretty girl liked the story…the sense of love/connection that would follow only served to reinforce my belief that “good stories = happy life.”
Today, I prioritize my needs differently. Case in point, in starting Regret Free Life I am placing my need for Contribution, Love and Significance ahead of my need for Certainty. The career change gives me the opportunity to help and connect with others, while simultaneously affording me the time I want to spend with my new wife Sarah and our future family.
- Tell a great story. Thought I’d abandoned that? Hell no! Great careers always map back to a great story – a clear and compelling vision of who you are and what you want. Want to ace a job interview? Tell them how this opportunity is more than just a job to you; it’s a vocation – something you are called to do. Then tell them why. You WILL get the job.
- Hire great bosses. I don’t care what company, what industry, what role you have to work in…you will find no greater catalyst than a manager who moves/inspires/engages you; a manager who, in his/her every action models “extraordinary” and gives you a target to aspire to. I will write later on how you go about hiring a great boss…what to look for, what to ask, etc.
- Be wary of Certainty. Everyone needs it, the question is: how much do you think you’ve got to have? One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from Tony Robbins: He writes “The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of un-certaintyyou can comfortably live with…” Recognize that, as a smart 20-something, you were born with an inherent guarantee of Certainty – your natural aptitudes and gifts that will always be there to support you. Be wary, because Certainty can become Boredom before you know it…and the crises, mid-life or otherwise, are sure to follow.
If you haven’t had enough, here’s another 10 diverse ideas, insights and anecdotes related to managing your career from some super-smart 30-somethings that have successfully managed theirs.
1. Start something you really believe in . . . but don’t start something new unless no one else is doing it well. I have seen in the non-profit sector a mass proliferation of new organizations and groups that often do what other organizations and groups do. And it is a tremendous waste of time and resources. And, frankly, a lot of it is driven by ego and pettiness. I think the old adage – “let’s do something rather than be something” – rings true on that front.
2. In picking a job, three steps: 1) prioritize your family as need-be 2) pick a city you love or have always wanted to live it 3) pick a company full of talented people in that city.Get into a diaspora of smart people and keep choosing your future bosses.
3. In the workplace, be professional first and then friends over time. It’s nearly impossible to do the reverse.
4. Find the intersection between your interests, your skills and the market. Passions are necessary, but not sufficient. For years I beat myself up for not understanding what my passions were enough to follow them. The challenge of your 20s is that you don’t necessarily know your “passion” or what you love, and that’s ok. You don’t need to know your life’s calling as soon as you get out of school. Your 20s is simply about discovering what you like and dislike.
5. Get operating experience. You can always go into investing if you know how the business works.
6. Find a skill set that you want to develop and focus on it…don’t be as concerned about the industry/sector up front. Rather, think of a first job as learning a craft, much like a blacksmith, shoemaker, etc. Whether marketing, PR, finance, etc… put yourself in a job/position that allows you to hone a skill set – then do it in a sector you are passionate about. When you can combine the two, most of the time it doesn’t feel like you are going to “work” every day.
7. If you feel you need to be lawyer / doctor / consultant / banker, to make good money, you’re wrong.
8. LEARN in your 20’s and EARN in your 30’s. Put yourself in an environment where you are LEARNING….once you stop learning or growing in a job, have the courage to pick up and find something new to do.
9. I would have benefited from successfully completing a 2-year analyst program at a bank or consulting firm. I thought that becoming an analyst in finance would have pigeon-holed me, when in fact, it would have provided a platform for slightly more productive adventures.
10. I’m happiest when there is no work-life divide. I don’t mean working all the time; I mean doing something as a job that you enjoy doing anyway. For me, working in politics didn’t seem like work because that is what I read about, thought about, and talked about regardless of what I did during the day. That seamlessness has proved to be something that is important to me.
Commercial plug: Do you know what you love yet? Have you crafted that compelling bar pitch? If not, get some help. It’s not hard, but it’s not always intuitive. Email me and we’ll set up a free Life Strategy Review; we’ll figure out how to get you from here to happiness, faster.