You know this moment well. We’ve all been here countless times. You are in the early stages of a conversation with someone, and the universal, inevitable question comes up: “So… What do you do?”
Aside from the fact that we all wish we weren’t defined by a job (yes, our beautiful, complex beings are much more than just a reflection of a job), I want you to think today about how you react to that question. Do you freeze? Do you generalize? Do you share a few details and hope the conversation is redirected? Or are you one of the few who is so excited to share, you light up inside?
If you aren’t a person who lights up inside when describing your occupation, the more important question for you is this: Why not? Are you at a place in your career where you feel at a dead end? Is your job unsatisfying? Or are you on the ride of your life and can’t wait to see what next year, three years from now, or five years from now, brings you?
We spend at least one-third of our lives working. I believe that statistic leaves no room for an unsatisfactory job. You deserve better. Your soul and your health deserve better. And everyone in your inner circle deserves better. Because we all know that if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing during 1/3 of your life on earth, it’s hard to feel optimistic about other things. It’s hard to have inner happiness and peace. And if that goes on long enough, it will be hard to prevent long-term psychological and physical damage.
Moreover, studies show that Top Performers can match their passion and purpose. In a comprehensive study of 5000 people, Morten Hansen found that the highest performing professionals identified their passions and tailored their efforts to those strengths.
So if you didn’t answer that your job lights you up inside, how can we get there? Today I’ll share the first step: you need to find C.L.A.R.I.T.Y. And here’s what I mean by that.
C stands for Create Your Vision.
Do you have a three-year plan? Can you define it in detail – more than “I want to pay down my house and have more time for family”? If you don’t know precisely where you are going, I know you won’t be surprised when I tell you this: you will not get there. The first thing you need to do is create the vision you have for yourself.
What are you doing in three years? Are you working for yourself? Are you leading a team? Which team? Have you advanced to a decision-making capacity that gets you excited to wake up and head to work? Or maybe you are pursuing that passion that you’ve set aside for so many years, finally doing what you’ve dreamt of since youth. Whatever variation of these dreams it may be, I want it to be something that you get giddy about. If you don’t, then you’re spending the three years for naught.
Next, I want you to think about how you can Leave what’s weighing you down.
What do you currently dread about your job? Are you being paid by the hour rather than by the value of your contributions? Do you feel underappreciated? Or maybe there’s a glass ceiling that prevents you from ever advancing past your current position. These types of things are what you are going to eliminate from your daily grind. Daily grinds are for leaving behind.
Once you Create your vision and plan to Leave certain things behind, you need to take Action.
Considering your vision and the things you plan to leave behind, what are some smaller, actionable steps you can take? Break it down so that the steps are manageable. For example, is your vision to be in a different career path? What do you need to do to get in that lane? Is there a side hustle that you can start now – one that gets your feet wet, and more importantly, gets you excited to get out of bed? What resources can you find to learn more about that new path – to get an edge over others? Mark Cuban recalls his earliest days as, “I had to kick myself in the ass and recommit to getting up early, staying up late, and consuming anything I possibly could to get an edge.” Consider your willingness to “consume anything you possibly can” a test of whether you choose the right path. If you aren’t excited to learn more about your chosen field, you may want to reconsider whether that path is best for you.
And if it’s not a new career path, then maybe you need to accelerate your current career path by broadening your connections.
Things bring us to the fourth letter in the acronym: R for Relationships.
Who would be the perfect introduction for you? An executive at a particular company? A manager in a different department? Or is it someone you admire from another industry? Have in mind why that introduction would be perfect and what you can offer that person (e.g., taking them to lunch so that you can learn more about their hurdles and successes). Then either reach out yourself or find someone who can make that connection for you. And if you don’t have personal connections, don’t overlook the value of LinkedIn in forging that initial meeting. If the two of you aren’t already connected, find out if any of your close connections is directly connected, and ask them to connect you via an introductory e-mail. And if reaching out via LinkedIn or e-mail doesn’t get a response, pick up the phone. Be the one percent that takes that extra step to connect. Don’t fail by failing to take action. Fail forward, and persist. (Link to the Fail Forward blog here.)
The I in C.L.A.R.I.T.Y. stands for Intentional.
Intentionality breeds success, and the best way you can be intentional is to set up a routine and follow it. Now that you’ve created your vision and you have action plans, how can you incorporate those plans into a routine? Is there a time that you can dedicate every week to tackle some of your actions? Will you use that sacred time to connect with others? Learn more about your chosen industry? Whatever you choose, dedicate that time to you and your future, and give your absolute best to it. YOU deserve it.
Next, be Teachable.
There is always something to learn and always someone to learn from. Consider every meeting with others an opportunity to learn something. I’d rather be asking questions than be the one who can’t shut up – and that’s because I know I have so much more to learn. When allowed to gain insight or consume relevant information, take it, and be humble. Your future successful self will thank you.
Finally, be You.
Be authentic, be valuable, and be engaged. These attributes will help you succeed, and they will define your brand.
Bringing CLARITY to your career path will put you on a trajectory for success, and there’s no better time to start that new trajectory than now.
Next time, we will dive deeper into setting short-term goals with another acronym: S.M.A.R.T.
Now, Go Forth and Conquer!