Your job is not your life

Your job is not your life. You may already know this, but some of us have to discover it the hard way. In my case, this lesson came as a sudden derailment to my plans. I was expecting a promotion when the divisional presidency abruptly changed. The new president brought in his “cronies” and a lot of worthy people had to go to make room.

So there I was—having built a $100 million dollar business almost with my bare hands (that is a vast exaggeration since my team spanning four countries did a lot of the work) but that was how it felt—suddenly on the street. My whole worldview was suddenly upside down. I was no one. Unemployed. Frightened.

In short, I made that mistake most of us probably make in our lives, i.e., to identify so thoroughly with a job that you start to think it defines who you are.

So let me repeat: your job is not your life.

Let’s go back a few years and consider: a friend told me recently that her 23&Me analysis suggested she (like most of us) was about 3% Neanderthal. She was shocked. I was a little less surprised, but nevertheless, it led me to think about that old trope that early hominids including Neanderthals allegedly spent no more than a few hours per day earning a living. The rest of their time they no doubt put to good use inventing language, cave painting, and eventually stone tools. All of these, you might say, were the artifacts of leisure. Tools were certainly a big step, of course, because they augmented the comparatively tiny teeth and claws of early humans and extended their ability to hunt or otherwise be more effective in their environment.

Today we are used to spending 40 or more hours per week working to cover our living expenses, sock away something for the future, and perhaps have a little fun—and this is an improvement. “Weekends” are a relatively new invention in most of the western world, as, except for Sundays and the occasional holy day, every other day was a working day.

But your career is just like those stone tools—it is a useful instrument intended to reduce your effort and make you more effective in achieving your dreams and desires. It is a tool, nothing more. Perhaps if you begin to think about it in these terms you will be able to treat it differently. For example, why not sharpen your career to make it more effective?

“Huh?” you say.

Yes, I’m speaking metaphorically.

In other words, change your career so that it better meets your needs.

Your career should work for you, you know, not the other way around.

We use a tool here at the Barrett Group with exactly that in mind. We call it the Clarity Program© (the targeting component of our five-step career management process). It helps clients better understand their personalities and how these relate to their satisfaction and effectiveness at work. It steps back and looks at their current life circumstances, seeking to balance the Career element with Financial concerns, Social aspects, and, of course, Health. Your Clarity Coach guides you professionally through this process and—particularly in these dark days of universal pandemic—helps you rethink your careers, including sometimes a completely new direction.

It will not surprise you to hear that more and more executives from the most strongly affected industries (aviation, hospitality, restaurants, entertainment, sports…) come to us these days with the understanding that they need help to demonstrate the transferability of their talents and professional experience into new industries—something that we have specialized in for thirty years.

We help hundreds of executives transition in this way every year. See our Hiring Line website, for example, and read about 78 happy souls who landed through our program in January – April 2022—in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis.

You may not be able to achieve a Neanderthal’s enviable work-life balance, but we can help you earn more money and feel more comfortable with a career that fits your life. Let’s talk.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

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