Tuesday, October 7th, 2008
You will probably have 3 distinct career phases by the time you are done (it starts with your first job and ends when you kick the bucket). Many people are living into their 80’s and 90’s. The children born today may live to an average of 100 years old. Our medicine is getting scary good.
That may mean that we could have 70 or more working years before we feel like stopping. That’s a lot of time to be prosperous. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see myself sitting in a rocking chair, sipping lemonade and waiting for death. I want to be productive for as long as my mind and body will allow.
A professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics, Britton Chance says, “Most of the people who work on cognitive deficits realize that it’s better to use it than to lose it.” – Emily Brandon of U.S. News
Understanding your career time-frame will allow you to pick and choose the skills that are needed now to make the rest of your life successful. Paul Newman (1925 – 2008) is my favorite example. He started out in the Navy, wanting to be a pilot. His physical revealed that he was colorblind. He went on to be a radioman and a gunner for the Navy. He finished his tour in WWII and went on to study acting. His second career was acting and directing and he starred in films such as Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and The Color of Money (1986). For his third career he decided to give back by creating a non-profit organic line of food, Newman’s Own. He has donated over $250 million to charity as of February 2008. It’s this activity, I believe, that gave him the strength to fight cancer as long as he did and continue his great work. Without a cause to there is no reason to live. I wish him all the best in his next life.
When you are at the beginning of each career you must ask yourself “Why?” before you do anything. If you are going to school for art, then why are you doing it? If you are doing it for fun then so be it, but you must always be aware of how it fits into the “present you” and “future you.” You must appreciate the choices that you make now so it builds on the foundation you have already established. You may think you want to be a famous sculptor, but if all you do is ride your mountain bike every weekend then you must take a hard look at what you think you want compared to what really interests you.
Every choice becomes a part of who you are. From your friends to your hobbies, they all influence your decisions.
1st Career Phase – Discovery
The 1st job is usually in the late teens, which is about getting your feet wet. There will probably be plenty of jobs between the first and the one that actually allow you to optimize your talents.
My first job was with my father as an electrician’s helper. I ran wire, wired in fans and did what I was told. Next, I moved on to K-mart as a cashier. Then back with my father and mushroom mongering (picking wild mushrooms and selling them to local restaurants). Then I took a job in media buying. Next, I tried telemarketing miniature leather saddles to a list of old buyers. (Yep, it was as bad as it sounds.) After that I was a marketing coordinator for “high pressure” valve company. Then I worked as a teacher and in the summers I managed a cyber-café. My next job was a front desk receptionist at a Yoga Studio. Then a part-time handyman. Finally, a marketing coordinator for a credit union. Now…
2nd Career Phase – Optimization
The 2nd career is about hitting your stride. It’s when you know you’ve found that job that you are good at, pays well, or feels exciting. Of course we want the second career to provide all three of these, but that’s not always the case if we get lazy about making our career fit our needs.
My 2nd career is just beginning. I’m trying to leverage myself into the career development industry, making myself an expert in the field. At 32 I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on how I can accomplish this. As you can see this website has already helped me declare my commitment to career development for people who love their lives.
3rd Career Phase – Giving Back
The 3rd career is about giving back to the things and people you love. That may mean giving your grandchildren the love and attention that they deserve. It may mean counseling businesses to optimize their talent. Whatever it is, it’s all about giving back to show appreciation for the life that we’ve enjoyed.
My 3rd career is still foggy. I know that I want to retire in my late fifties and hopefully live a simple life with a nice little plot of land. I’m going to give back by helping people with their careers. I hope that they can be as happy and successful as I feel right now and expect to be in the future.
Your career success depends on leverage. It’s the most important aspect to building your foundation. Without leverage you’ll most likely receive terrible pay and work awful hours. That’s why a lot of college students are stuck working at Pizza Hut. They haven’t mastered the skills to leverage their work and enhance their career.
A college degree isn’t always a necessity and you can leverage your career in many ways. Some of you will be creative and others will take advantage of the family business already in place. Others will learn how to build a network to help get a job out of college that fits your needs.
Use Leverages to Build Your Career Foundation
Your family members may have already built a network that you can feed off of if they let you. My brother went into business with my father – electrical contracting. They work hard, but make a good living. My brother will eventually take over the business and he’ll have all the client relationships that have been built up for the past 40 years.
Build a Network
You’ll need patience and persistence to build your network, but if your passion is strong enough this won’t feel like work. I’m working on building my network by trying to help as many people on-line and off-line as I can. I’ve created a brand for myself and every day it helps me bring more awareness to my site and my potential business.
Emotions are what transforms a product that is “just useful” into a breakaway success. Look at your favorite artists – you probably love them more than most of your friends. For example (let’s have a little fun) if your favorite musician was drowning out in the middle of the sea along with your 7th favorite friend (the one that you sometimes enjoy being around, but a lot of times they get really annoying). All you have is a little kayak. You can only save one; who would it be? You don’t have to tell me in the comments, but I think that we all know who you would pick. When you can create a product or service that people love, then you can even mess up a customer’s order and still come out smelling like a new iPhone. Although I don’t think you’ll make mistakes on purpose to prove my point, but if you do and they truly love you, they’ll just keep coming back for more.
If you graduate from Yale compared to West Chester University you’ll have a lot more doors open to you. It’s up to the individual to work hard and make a difference, but it’s a lot easier to succeed when the company knows that you are smart enough to graduate from such a prestigious university.
How You Look (Sex Appeal)
We are a society based around sex. Taller men often get the CEO positions. Prettier women may get pushed up the ladder because we want to be around beautiful people. If they don’t have what it takes, it will eventually come out and they’ll crash and burn, but if they can leverage themselves to the top and learn the skills necessary to be successful then they’ll probably able to build a pretty solid career.
Having talent is the least important factor on this list. You may have all the talent in the world, but if you can’t finish projects then it doesn’t matter. In the end what matters is producing the results. I’ve seen talented young kids come into an organization and they just don’t have what it takes to make a sale. They talk a big game and can make some pretty cool PowerPoint presentations, but that’s it. Talent is the weakest leverage, but one we still need. When you can use your network to build your rapport and your passion to push toward your goals then your talent will allow you to shine when you need to “wow” the customer.
Plan of Attack
You must gain an understanding of who you are and what you want to accomplish to make your dreams come true. That’s why you should use your first career as a way to discover what you like and how you want to go about accomplishing your goals. I had a friend who planned his retirement at age 25. He went to a personal financial advisor, was open and honest about his finances and his potential earnings, and decided that with intense self-discipline that age 48 would be his retirement goal. A retirement lifestyle that would fulfill his needs was within his grasp if his plan was properly executed.
If you aren’t this anal then please don’t feel stressed that you don’t have every year of your career planned out. But you do need to have a plan of attack that will allow you succeed. Hitting certain age milestones can feel painful if a system was never put in place to ensure achievement that will meet your goals.
1st Career: Use this time to understand what you want out of life.
When starting your first career, don’t worry about sticking around to build that 401k. If your company has one please contribute in to this plan, but don’t force yourself to stay with the company for another year just so you can get 20% more invested in your return. Your knowledge and network is so much more important than a few thousand dollars. So try working in retail, an office, surf shop, and maybe even a small side business to see what owning your own business is like. Do whatever it takes to help you discover your hidden talents and passions.
I could have gone into business with my father and brother or stayed at the valve company and I probably would have been ready to retire by age 50 if I was careful with my money, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to explore new career horizons. There is such a wide range of careers to be discovered and enjoyed.
2nd Career: Use this time to optimize your talents and connect with as many people in your field as time and energy will allow.
When have had the opportunity to try many different jobs, hobbies, and possibilities then start to take note of what you enjoy and how you may fit it into a career. Maybe 10% of you will find that perfect job right out of school, but most of you will continue to explore and you’ll never stop discovering until your needs are fulfilled.
Many of you may want to take the conventional approach to finding a career, but I know a lot of you will want to carve your own niche out. I’m in the process of creating my network so I can use it to leverage my writing and speaking career. This may seem like too much of a hassle or just silly, but to me it makes sense. I don’t want to go back for my Master’s degree. I want to open doors with my persistence, talent, and network.
3rd Career: Use this time to slow down and give back to the community that has helped support you.
Eventually you will hit a point when you’ll feel tired of doing the same thing every day. Well most of you will. Some of you may work all the way to your grave, and that’s okay too. However, many of us will move on to that third career to take life a little slower, smell the roses if you want an overused expression to help make my point.
I’ve talked to dozens of people and they want their 2nd career to gradually come to a close. They don’t want to be working 50 hour weeks then suddenly one day just stop and piddle around in their garage. They want to ease out slowly and transition into retirement. If you are close to this position then you must be willing to talk to your employer about this (This is where owning your own business has it’s perk. It’s your choice to keep working if that’s what you would like). My friend’s grandfather, 85, still works with his son in the furniture business. He doesn’t just want to sit around all day and do nothing. He wants to help his son build the business even larger. He works four hours a day from 10 – 2 and still makes sales, contacts, and money that he doesn’t even need. The mornings and evenings are slow and lazy and that’s just the way he likes it.
I truly believe a happy 3rd career is about giving back to the community and people you love and respect. There is just too much knowledge and love in most of us to just give up and sit in front of the TV. It’s up to each of us to create this for ourselves. This won’t fall in our lap.
Your 3 Careers
If you can plant the seed now you can create a life that will fulfill you way into your 90’s. That’s my prayer to you for today. I actually have a personal prayer that I send out to all of my readers every day. Yesterday’s was, “I pray that you are having a more enjoyable day than me.”
Praying for future happiness is good, but planning it out and taking action to make it happen will make all three of your careers flourish.
Articles related to Career fulfillment:
- 5 Fun and Easy Tips to Let the “Real You” Shine Through at Work, Southwest Airlines Style
- Never Stop Expanding Your Network
- Give Employees the Power to Impress Customers
- Lucky You!
Image courtesy of Ferdi’s World