Have the uncertainties decreased or increased?
Are you more or less optimistic about realizing your potential?
If you don’t like your answers, one of the best resolutions you can make is to invest in yourself and take more control of your career.
One view of work
In “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”, Alain de Botton described the work of most people as a kind of Faustian bargain. We exchange possibility and uncertainty for some drab but well-defined identity. We winnow down our chances for fulfillment in order to numb ourselves from the anxiety of trying and possibly failing.
“The start of work means the end to freedom, but also to doubt, intensity, and wayward desires. The accountant’s ten thousand possibilities have been reduced to an agreeable handful. She has a business card which she hands over in meetings and which tells other people - and, more meaningfully perhaps, reminds her - that she is Business Unit Senior Manager, rather than a vaporous transient consciousness in an incidental universe. How satisfying it is to be held in check by the assumptions of colleagues, instead of being forced to contemplate, in the loneliness of the early hours, all that one might have been and now will never be.”
A different view
As depressing as that exchange might seem, even that deal is disappearing. So more and more people are exhorting us to think differently about what work might be and to explore other possibilities.
Here’s David Mamet, a writer and film director who’s won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award:
“Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you’ve got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while learning to say it better.”
“The possibilities are infinite. But so, too, are the responsibilities. Having the ability to chart your own course shifts the onus of leadership back onto you. This means we cannot expect our managers to take charge of our career development and groom us for greatness, We cannot wait quietly for the perfect mentor to arrive and guide us in the development of our craft. And we cannot count on a future filled with signposts and certainty.”
And here’s Ben Zander, the famous conductor, who encourages us to rethink what we perceive as limitations:
“Many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so based on a framework of assumptions we carry with us. Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view. Find the right framework and extraordinary accomplishment becomes an everyday experience.”
Doing something about it
There is no doubt that work is changing and that companies - and jobs - simply don’t last as long as they used to. It can all be very scary. But the good news is that there's also a greater diversity of jobs than ever. And more ways to cheaply experiment and explore different possibilities.
Good, fulfilling work is within the reach of everyone. And, like most things worth having, it requires time and effort to develop the skills, habits, and approach you’ll need.
So make this the year you touch the treadmill and start. Now, while you’ve still got a job that pays the bills. Learn to write better and present better. Learn about the best way to build relationships. Learn to work out loud and build a purposeful network that will open up possibilities for you.
Invest in yourself. Make this the year you take control of your career.