A job leads to work that moves you into a career that matures you toward a purpose.
It certainly is possible to work at a job your whole life and not have a career. A job is where you exchange your time for a paycheck whereas a career is something you identify with. In a career you grow, you take on skills and nuance, levels and proficiency, where you own inputs and outcomes. A career enhances your identity because it is an expression of what you’ve chosen to “do” with your life. A job does none of that.
It is also true that you can be in a career your whole life and never find your purpose. Purpose is more than being in a career. Purpose indicates a reason for being. What you do and why you do it is aligned to a much higher degree when you are living with purpose. People change careers. People don’t change purposes. Because when you’re living with a purpose, every waking moment presents opportunities for you to add to your store or pour out of your store of well-being.
Ok nice preamble.
Today’s letter offers thoughts on pushing through the gravitational pull of a job and into the open space of a career. We’ll tackle purpose later. I talked with a young man this week regarding his work path and he said he wanted to work with guys he respected and admired on a project that lifted him and earn enough money to help him achieve his goals. Let’s call that the A list, as a good a description in starting a down the work path as I’ve heard. In my discussion with him, up to this point he’s got the first two going, but lacks the third. And as good as working with good guys on a project you really enjoy, if you lack the prospect of sustained, meaningful income the first two won’t last that long.
As we’ve talked about, earned income is a bi-product in the exchange of value. Great guys gravitate to growth and greed. (Actually, just kidding on greed, but I couldn’t help but throw down that alliteration staring me in the face). But solid substantive people are attracted to environments where their contribution leads to meaningful income. My list is designed to get you from entry job towards a career.
1. Pick an industry where you can see men of substance thrive. It’s not an insult to say that you lack perspective today. Between 25-35 we all do. Picking an industry where you can see men have found a rich environment to grow and become well off is a good start. You won’t be stuck there if you don’t like it.
2. As you search for a job, it’s likely you’ll take one of the first one’s that come your way. All good. Pour yourself into that job. If another job comes along that sounds good, stick with the one you’ve already picked. It’s better to fulfill your commitments for the first 2 years than chase a shiny object.
3. Identify the levels above you in the organization. What licenses, levels of education, professional organizations, skills and knowledge do they have? That is the ladder to climb on. Until you can at least see what they see, you can’t climb past them. If you can get a mentor, wonderful.
4. Work your butt off. If you’re young and up to the point of having young kids, you have the time to invest in getting up to speed from a value standpoint. Learn your company. Learn its value proposition. Learn to be valuable, then you’ll become invaluable.
5. Stay away from drama. Create a no drama zone. No gossip. No snide remarks. Nothing. Just work.
6. Ask for more responsibility. Don’t wait to be noticed. Indicate that you want to grow and you’re willing to pour out to gain mastery. Regardless of the rung you’re on, there’s another rung above. Climb as many as you can early so it’ll make the later rungs easier and better to be on.
7. Once you’ve put in your 2 years, you will have long ago decided if the company can sustain your goals and objectives. You can jettison the booster rocket once you’ve reached escape velocity and can explore the heavens on your own.
Maybe this is all too obvious for words. But I see angst out there about whether the current job is the right thing. It is if it’s a booster rocket. The outcome you’re looking for is enough value you can exchange for income to live your life with relative freedom – freedom to get the girl; freedom to have the kids; freedom to create the nest and fill it with comforts; freedom from want and debt. I’ll talk about the timing on marriage and kids soon. And of course you can work with great people on meaningful projects your whole life without the prospect of a big paycheck and be fulfilled with substantive purpose, look at ministerial work. But you can have ministerial work has a side gig too.
I am a proponent of the idea that work fills a need in men to be productive, to strive, to create, to overcome the obstacles of the external world. Ultimately, work is a spiritual endeavor of incomes and outcomes.
To your reaching the stars,
P.S. Today’s letter marks my 4th anniversary of writing every Friday.