Everybody wants to rule the world.
– 1980s new wave group Tears for Fears
When this song was popular (about 25 years ago), I disagreed with the statement above, because I for one didn’t want to rule the world. Not only that, I didn’t want to rule a company, a department, or even a team of two.
However, along the way someone suggested that I take a personality profile test. I finally took one, and guess what? It revealed that I actually do want to rule the world. So I discussed these test results with people who had known me for many years. They would tell me that these results were not a surprise. They would give examples of my behavior that support the results, etc. While I felt shattered to hear such information, it was a useful time of reflection where I was able to finally understand things that had happened to me and how to handle future events in my life. I’m glad to have gone through this, but I’d probably be a glutton for punishment to want to do it again.
So what does this have to do with careers? Well, we are often guided to take such tests in the context of our career. But I didn’t mention “career” above, just life in general. This causes me to wonder how often people have an opportunity to explore their personality profile outside a career setting?
My curiosity is derived from this – there has never been a point in my life where I wanted to have a career. That might sound strange, but let me explain.
To me, a career is not the same as work. I grew up in a rural area where my senior family members (parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts) and their friends were, for the most part, farmers and/or entrepreneurs. They didn’t call their work “having a career.” Careers were for big-city folks on television. They worked in offices and wore fancy suits. These are two things that don’t agree with me. I don’t like being in closed in spaces. Even when offered an office, I’ll ask to sit in an open common area. As far as wearing a suit, I always liked Thomas Edison’s quote “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Additionally, according to Wikipedia the word career derives from carrera which is Latin for race, i.e. rat race!
This is in keeping with much of what I see when “career” is the topic. Books, seminars and courses on Climb the Corporate Ladder, How to Get That Promotion, Impress Your Boss, and so on. How many times have people been told to take an assignment “because it will be good for your career.” When that’s happened to me, the assignment had nothing to do with my goals, but everything to do with being promoted.
So I mentioned goals in that last sentence, and you might be wondering what my goals have been if I’m a person who works but doesn’t consider that to be a career. A subset of some relevant goals of mine in this life are (in no particular order)
- Solve problems
- Help people
- Make enough money to pay the bills
I could have listed more (e.g., have fun) but what I like about these three is that they include the type of goals that my role models might have had. The role models I’m referring to are my grandfathers. One was a farmer and the other owned an excavation and farm drainage company. They solved problems such as figuring out how to keep machinery working for as little money as possible. They helped people by producing food, assisting neighbors, and volunteering in soil and water conservation organizations. They made enough money to pay the bills and pass their farms and businesses on to the next generation. Those are some good things that involved a lot of hard work, but neither of my grandfathers would say they pursued a career.
So I’ll end this with a list of some rough questions related to careers and professional development that I’ve been thinking about lately.
- Are my views in this blog post totally incorrect? Partially correct? Enlightened?
- Do others feel their goals are similar but consider it offensive when I say that I don’t have a career?
- Do you feel that any kind of progression, be it for-pay or volunteer, through skills and experience is a career? Or does a career require pursuit of promotion?
- Do you feel there’s a moral imperative to have a career if you have the opportunity? Seriously, this is a genuine question. I wonder about this because I’ve heard comments (some directed at me) such as “It’s such a waste of your life if you don’t do this [career related thing].”
Feel free to comment and discuss any of this below, or better yet it would be great to see what others think about this topic in their own blog posts.