Crafting a Sustainable Career
Imagine crafting a sustainable career for yourself. Year after year, you perform work that makes full use of your skills and challenges you to develop new ones. Your work not only interests you, it gives you a sense of meaning. You enjoy opportunities for learning and development. You work with people who energize you. You are confident that your skills and competencies make you valuable and marketable and that you can access opportunities through your network. You are able to fit your work together with the other things in your life that are important to you, like family, friends, and leisure.--Monique Valcour, Craft a Sustainable Career
A few weeks ago I ran across Monique Valcour's Harvard Business Review blog post on crafting a sustainable career. It dovetails very nicely with what I've been writing here for months now on the need to develop your career resilience.
The ultimate purpose of career resilience is, in fact, to provide you with strategies to create a sustainable career path for yourself.
In other words, the patterns and habits of career resilience give you the roadmap necessary to create a sustainable career.
The post got me thinking more about what sustainability means in terms of your career.
In the end, a sustainable career is one that will last for the long haul.
It's a career that helps you focus on the intersection between your talents and what the world needs from you.
It's a career that is diversified in many ways--diverse income streams, diverse connections, diverse projects and experiences. Homophily is your enemy now.
Above all, a sustainable career is one that SUSTAINS you--emotionally, financially, socially, dare I say, even spiritually.
If your career isn't doing these things, then you can't continue with it indefinitely. Eventually the cracks will appear and things will come tumbling down around you.
I agree with Monique that sustainable careers are built on:
- Recognizing that you are the pilot of your own career. Frankly, I've found that this is the number one change most people need to make in their lives. They don't recognize all the ways in which they let other people take charge.
- Developing your key talents and strengths and consistently using those to add value in the marketplace--whether that means working for yourself or for other people.
- Being aware of trends and opportunities in your industry and occupation that you can leverage to your advantage. To me, this includes understanding the major impacts of technology on our careers.
- Seeking opportunities to work with people who energize, challenge and inspire you.
- Documenting your accomplishments and the ways that you've added value in the workplace.
I believe that sustainability goes beyond these things too.
- Sustainable careers are built on healthy habits, having a wellness approach to your career, rather than a crisis management approach. Yes, you are the pilot of your career. But you can't put your career on auto-pilot. You have to pay attention to it on a regular basis.
- Sustainable careers are built on having multiple income streams, not relying on a single "job" but on multiple projects and opportunities. This is more critical than ever before. Full-time employment is in decline and we have to become more entrepreneurial about our careers.
- Sustainable careers require us to use reflective practice and career journaling as tools for gaining clarity about ourselves and our work and as strategies for building on our strengths. Self-awareness and intentional practice help us develop our skills and identify our opportunities.
- A sustainable career requires us to be more intentional about our network-building and connections. Are we networking on our own behalf or to benefit our employers? Do we know how to ask for help in ways that allow people in our circle of connections to respond effectively? Are we seeking the right kinds of connections, going out of our usual closed networks and purposely connecting with people who may think differently than we do?
- A sustainable career also asks us to pay more attention to our patterns of coping at work. What stories do we tell ourselves and how do these stories shape our behavior? What beliefs do we have about ourselves, our work and our colleagues? How do these beliefs support us or hold us back?
So what does a sustainable career look like to you? And what are you doing to craft a sustainable career for yourself?
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