Career: A word that makes your heart sink

Does the word career leave you with a sinking feeling?  

I presented at the Business Woman’s association last week and asked an open ended question about the image the word career evoked in people’s minds.  I was surprised to hear that it left some with a sinking and uncomfortable feeling. A corporate lawyer turned entrepreneur and an accountant running a successful business for more than 15 years found it hard to even think of an image – the word felt constraining, corporate and not really what they did.   Why was this? 

Definition of the word career

 The career literature shows an evolution in our understanding of the word career over time from its early connotation as a job to a postmodern take that reflects a more holistic perspective. This shift is shared so beautifully by Vance Peavey, often credited with being the father of postmodern career psychology.  

 “In antiquity the word 'career' derived from the Latin carrus and referred to passage, course, or pathway, and to the wheeled vehicle known as chariot. In modern times the term career became embedded in the industrial vocabulary and meant profession or occupation.  With the passing of the industrial age, the term career should be restored to its original meaning. The career that the postmodern should attend to is the pathway of her life - 'my life is my career.' To practice 'career counseling' is to help others seek answers to the question: How should I live my life?"

 It seems to me that the women who struggled with the word had purposefully chosen to chart a different path from a traditional corporate career, and work for them was a part of their broader lives.  

So what, you might ask?

Read on as I believe in a world where the boundaries between work and life are blurred and many of us struggle to bring a sense of balance to our lives new ways of engaging with career questions are essential.  Being able to see things in new ways creates new possibilities.  

3 Coaching Tips 

Next time you are thinking about your career and career advancement:

1.     Ask yourself:

·       Where am I choosing to spend my time and energy?  For what purpose?  

·       What does this say about what is most important to me now?

·       How does this align with who I want to be and what I truly value?

2.     Pay attention to the answers and you may be surprised at what you start to learn about yourself. 

3.     What action can you take from your learning?  

 This approach requires you make sense of how you are choosing to live your life right now.  Embraced in this post modern approach is the freedom to choose to dedicate your precious time to those things that matter most to you now; where you believe you can make your biggest contribution now. It invites you to see your life and career holistically.  It offers flexibility and the satisfaction from knowing that you are owning and shaping your work and your life in personally meaningful ways and are not leaving this up to your company, society or others to decide what constitutes success or advancement for you. 

For the sceptics and cynics out there, I did not say this is easy but it certainly is rewarding.  In today’s climate where nothing is certain, taking responsibility consciously is a proactive strategy.  

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles