One of the major highlights of my year in 2019 was the opportunity to go to Finland. And there were so very many things to appreciate, but something that particularly delighted me was the Finnair NOW/HERE campaign that set the tone for my trip:
Nordic happiness is an experience of being one – with nature, with others, with time. It’s about getting lost and finding yourself. Because sometimes you have to travel to nowhere to be now here. https://www.travelnowhere.com/
The concept of being now/here struck me as a perfect way to embrace that feeling of being lost, which strikes me as absolutely essential to career exploration. If you are truly allowing yourself to be radically curious and explore, of course you are going to lose your bearings, you haven’t been here before: no one has!
You are doing the important work of being now/here!
Career can be an intensely anxious proposition. We all want to do something that brings meaning and purpose to our lives and for many of us, work will be a primary means through which we seek to make a difference in the world. So we add pressure, feeling like there is a great deal riding on the decisions that we make about career, especially at times of transition (just starting out, changing jobs, changing careers, or simply contemplating any of the above). And while I want to acknowledge the anxiety – it is all too real – at the same time, we can’t let it get in the way of the task at hand. And it certainly will if we let it.
We need to let it be.
where we are,
We can’t possibly know what is coming down the pike, and we can’t change what is past, so the task is to stay present, figure out which of the opportunities currently in front of us we would like to pursue. AND if there are no opportunities in front of us, how to stir some up. Even if we do have opportunities, it’s probably always a good idea to be stirring them up…
So, being mindful that this is something that we are going to be figuring out for our entire working lives, I offer some practices now (on the occasion of a new decade) for being here (with what is currently at hand), starting with Gratitude.
Now, certainly I’m not the only one out there talking about bringing an attitude of gratitude at the dawn of a new decade, but there is a very real place for such a practice when it comes to career. No matter where you are, someone helped you get here. Someone in your community (who you know or don’t know yet) inspired you with their work or their words, in any one of a million ways. So why not start 2020 by sharing some gratitude with them? In Bringing Linguistics to Work I talk about the gracious note, basically just sending some appreciative thoughts to someone – maybe someone whose article you used recently which helped you build an argument. That’s actually how I began my professional collaboration with Camilla Vasquez! Oh, and she has a new book out this year, folks, check it out: Language, Creativity and Humour Online And thanks Camilla for your excellent scholarship!! Happy 2020!!
And just like that, you have already begun the next practice: honoring community.
For most of us, our networks will be how we find most of our professional opportunities moving forward. And I do talk a lot about networking, including just last month on episode lucky #13 the Coffee and Cocktails podcast, and networking intergenerationally, but there is good reason to share some love for networking, including that it is in need of reclaiming because so many people seem to be doing it wrong. Networking in a way that honors community is not just about now, it is about building trust and trusting. It is about sharing, and it is about being generous. When we invest in building and supporting our community now, we help ourselves. Start with the people who currently surround you. If you are a student, think about what you can do to support and connect with your classmates.
Your community are invaluable to you because they are in a better position than you are to notice the patterns in the ways that your gifts and ways of thinking and working express themselves.
Pattern-recognition in community is behind the design of the Mighty Network (take the work sessions as an example – your community can help you bring forward your strengths, identify the little stumbling blocks that present challenges to you so that you can anticipate and not get so tripped up by them), it is why we share stories around the campfire in Career Camp. We cultivate the story listening abilities of your fellow campers so that they can help you hear (and amplify) your superpowers!
Another thing to know about these patterns is that they are expressions of curiosity.
When you choose a research topic and analytical approach, you are chasing your curiosity. So too with career – the work contexts that you find yourself drawn to comprise expressions of where and with whom you feel called to share your gifts. But these expressions can be harder to see – especially given the pressures which surround career decisions – which is why I advocate for a mindfulness practice that I call an hour a week on LinkedIn. Ideally, you will spend this hour in daily 10 minute increments, and mainly what you are doing will be looking for ways to pay it forward. Who in your community is on LinkedIn asking for something? (“help me spread the word about ___”, etc.) with whom might you share a resource that you just came across in your newsfeed? Who might benefit from a connection or an opportunity right now? And as you are doing this, pay attention to what is piquing your curiosity. What would be your next step in following it?
Get on out there and Iterate!
These practices interrelate and inform each other: Chasing curiosity is fueled by honoring community and is informed by noticing patterns, especially when approached in contexts of gratitude and generosity. So if you are one to make resolutions, consider where you might build these practices into your year and decade as you look forward.
For me, it means seeking out two career conversations a week and two meetings (networking events or conferences) a month. In Designing Your Life, they describe opportunities as being the result of approximately 25 connections. Following this formula, my activities would stand to generate about 5 opportunities a year, which seems to be about right: One for me, four for my community….what’s your plan?
And here’s to what’s next!