When you’re working “all the hours”, it’s easy to become so enmeshed in your work, you come believe it’s a reflection of who you are. And while, to have a successful career, it’s essential your career aligns with your personal values, there’s an important distinction between “who you are” and “what you do” that often gets lost.
For me, keeping this distinction front of mind has been fundamental in developing my business over the last few years. It would be super-easy to let every setback, or achievement, impact my self-worth… but, if I did that, the inconsistent highs and lows would make it a struggle to keep going.
It’s the same for almost any role, in any workplace, or when you’re trying to make a career change or find a new job. Yes, your work might be of “life-or-death” importance, you might be driven by significant purpose, or you might be changing the world or your community, one micro-step at a time. Whatever your career, it’s still important to…
Detach your “what” from your “who”
Hands up if you’ve ever been redeployed or made redundant? I have… 3 times in 15 years, twice by my own choice. Whew!
Intellectually (and when it doesn’t impact you directly), the case for redundancy is straightforward… for reasons either strategic or economic, your organisation needs to restructure, and roles previously considered necessary are no longer required. The decision should be black and white.
However, when it’s your role that’s affected, and even when you make a conscious choice about the outcome, it’s very, very difficult not to make it ALL about you. I know this because I’ve experienced all the emotions and asked myself all the questions… Why is this happening to me? What have I done wrong? Am I not good enough? Did I not work hard enough?
All rational thinking was instantly abandoned in favour of questioning my self-worth! And I’ve witnessed this phenomenon time and again with nearly everyone I’ve worked with or supported through this type of experience.
The solution to this self-worth roller-coaster, is learning to invest in the process (i.e. those things you can control) and let the outcomes be whatever they’ll be.
Treat your career (or business) like a game
1. UNDERSTAND THE GAME
When you think about a game, any game, you can learn the rules, design and implement strategies, make helpful and unhelpful moves, win, lose and start again, learn from your mistakes, and get better with practice. When you apply this approach to your work-life, you either win or you learn. You find the strategies that work for you and use them to your advantage. And you don’t let mistakes or missteps attach themselves to your value as a person… you simply take the lessons and try again.
2. THE GAME CONTINUES, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
Here’s the thing, your career, like a game, will keep moving forward, whether you’re intentional about what you’re doing or not. If you choose to sit on the sidelines or let others decide your moves, you’re actively reducing your odds of achieving the outcomes you want. Things might work out for you, but there’s more chance they’ll work out better for those making the decisions on your behalf. Why take that chance when you can be the captain of your career game?
3. FOCUS ON HOW YOU USE WHAT YOU’VE GOT
In a game, when you want to achieve the next level or be promoted to the next division, it’s not a matter of submitting an application. Sometimes you might cop a lucky break and level-up by being in the right place at the right time, but it’s easier to achieve when you’ve mastered your current level. By focussing on the quality of your work, the impact you create, and the competitive advantage you hold, you’ll be surprised how many opportunities find you, rather than the other way around.
4. BACK YOUR MOVES AND ADJUST AS YOU GO
When you’re playing a game, you don’t get a lot of time to procrastinate over your moves. You act in the moment, making a decision based on your experience and the information you have to hand. In the same way, when you know you’re ready for a career change, taking months (or years) to make that change adds to your self-doubt and chips away at your self-confidence. Make a decision, back yourself… and if it doesn’t go as planned, that’s ok, learn from it and keep going until you work it out. It’s just a move, not the end of the game.
5. SET UP YOUR SUPPORT TEAM
Anyone who was glued (as I was) to Ash Barty’s Australian Open win this week, might have been surprised to hear how often she mentioned her “team” in her speech and media appearances. Ash plays as an individual, but she has a multi-faceted group supporting her achievements. From her family and coach, to personal friends, professional peers and mentors, she recognises she wouldn’t be where she is today without this group. It might seem counterintuitive but to achieve the success you want in your career, you can’t do it alone. Who’s in your support group?
Making this simple tweak to detach my “what” from my “who” and to reframe the way I make decisions has enabled me to do things I previously believed impossible for me. I only wish I’d discovered it earlier!
I’d love to hear what you think… would making this change work for you?
If you’re ready to take control of your career game, you need to think differently about what’s possible for you. Let’s discuss how I can help you stop procrastinating and take action to design your version of a successful and meaningful career.