Do You Want a “Job” or “Career”?

[quote]Q:  I recently lost my job and this is giving me motivation to not give up. Can you give us any pointers on staying inspired and optimistic in these economic times? Would love if you gave more success tips![/quote]

Dear Maria,

Your question stood out to me because I’ve had this conversation with so many people, and, because I too recently had experienced this same challenge.  Let me start my answer by telling you my own story quickly.

I was employed as an executive at an international bank, when all of a sudden the economy took a long over-due dump, and I was unexpectedly given the choice of a demotion, a move, or a severance package.  I chose severance.  Now, this wasn’t an easy choice, but the choice that I knew gave me the most hope for being even happier and more successful in the long run.

You see, I thought I had it all at this job.  A great company, a great reputation, more income than we knew what to do with, great benefits and more amazing complimentary first-class vacations than Lori and I could ever dream of.  Sounds pretty awesome, right?  Well, not entirely.  Something was missing.  While I appreciated all of these things, I started to get used to them, and pretty soon nothing was enough.  At the same time, I got more and more caught up in “corporate lingo” and the demand to do better, and spent less time on the lingo that really mattered, my quality time and conversation spent with Lori.  So, when the severance option was offered, I knew this was my only chance to hit the reset button, and refocus on the things that meant the most in my life.  My relationship with Lori, and doing something more meaningful for others.

Now, when I found myself in your shoes, I was standing at the beginning of the greatest recession since the Great Depression.  No job, and BIG bills!  In order to recover, I had to stop and listen to all of the lessons in life that I had been taught, but had ignored up to that point. You see, growing up, my parents always taught me “do what you love, and the success will follow.”  I looked around and realized the happiest people I knew, were the people that were doing what they loved in life.  I also realized that these were the very same people who were the most successful in their careers.  Coincidence?  I think not!  When you love what you do, you naturally excel.”

Now, if you love doing “ABC” in your life, and there happens to be a career in “ABC,” then congratulations!  Job search complete.  However, that doesn’t happen to be the case most of the time.  Give up?  Hell no!  You see, these same people that I realized were happiest and most successful weren’t just given what they have now.  They built it.  Some started their own business from nothing (yes, nothing!), others took an entry level position below their qualifications in order to be in the field they wanted, and then worked their way up quickly because they were so happy and effective.  And some went against traditional thinking, and started careers in areas that people said they could never make money in (joke’s on them now!).

Now, if you’re saying “Gee, thanks for the advice Captain Obvious,” hold on!  I understand that people have obligations, families, and responsibilities that they have to consider when making this choice.  So, I will tell you, sometimes you have to take a “job” that will make ends meet, while you work on your dream career simultaneously.  Sound tough and tiring?  It is.  That’s why everyone’s not running around living out their dreams.  But, those who are, weren’t afraid of a little sacrifice and hard work to get there.  Nothing worth having comes easy, or quickly!  Suck it up, and go out and create it.

Lori and I sold several extravagances, changed our way of thinking, and downsized our lifestyle just so that we could start careers doing what we really wanted to do instead of just taking “jobs” that paid the same as the old one.  We worked non-stop, taking all the necessary and sometimes difficult steps for over two years to get here.  And the result?  We’ve never been happier or more fulfilled.  And ironically, two years later, we’re more successful than ever.  Perhaps that has something to do with changing our definition of success!  Here’s my point.  Choose your next career because you love it, not because it pays you the same as your last job.

Best of luck to you, not in finding a replacement job, but in starting the career you were meant to do!