For most of my career I’ve been deeply involved in other people’s careers. I’m a total geek when it comes to how someone got that cool job. I agonize over how many truly talented people spend most of their waking days (and sometimes their nights too!) doing work that makes them miserable. It’s such a shame because it doesn’t have to be this way!
The other day a young woman I’ve known for most of her life was visiting her parents and stopped by to say hello. She’s been living in Europe, working for an NGO (non-governmental organization) and building educational programs that promote tolerance and understanding across cultural divides. Over a cup of tea, she told me how much she loves her job, her co-workers, the travel, and working for an organization that’s aligned with her values.
As she was catching me up, she told me it was time to make a career move and she was worried because she’d been so lucky so far in her career. I stopped her right there because she has not been lucky.
People who are loving their jobs, the folks who are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing – they’ll tell you they’re “lucky.” Or they’ll humbly say that they were “in the right place at the right time.” They make it all look so easy that you can’t help but wonder why not you, right?
But here’s the truth: They weren’t lucky. And it’s not easy.
It’s just magical thinking to believe that some people get ahead and some don’t and it’s out of our control. Instead, the truth is closer to a quote attributed to Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
When I think of the people I know who love what they do, feel good about their careers, and have achieved some level of success (by their own measure, not mine), they have one thing in common.
This young woman isn’t leaving her career advancement up to chance, waiting for the promotion to come, or the recruiter to call. She is always thinking about, preparing herself, and setting herself up for her next role.
She’s asking herself all the right questions. She’s staying in touch, and building relationships. She’s performing at an outstanding level so that she’s developing a reputation as an expert in her field. She is setting herself up to recognize and take advantage of opportunity when it comes her way. And that takes work.
So my question for you is, what is your intention with your career? Are you waiting for Prince (or Princess) Charming to come in to sweep you off your feet and into the job of your dreams?
The truth is, it doesn’t work that way. Now you may say, you don’t understand, Sarah. I have commitments. I have a family. I don’t have the time or the energy to do everything it takes to find a great job.
I do understand, because this is what I do! And here’s what I know – you can do this! You just need to stop believing in magic and start believing in yourself, set your intention and put yourself first.