A lot of the career advice floating around these days seems centered around helping folks find that “perfect” job that will lift them out of the misery of their current one.
But will a new job really provide a brand new life?
As a product of the “over-programmed” generation, I endured the constant shuttling from elementary school to after-school soccer practice, music lessons, French tutoring or worse, and every minute of my life had to serve a goal-oriented purpose—getting accepted to a good college. It seemed like most of my life revolved around school and a handful of extra-curricular activities. My circle of friends, my time, my efforts, my achievements were all enmeshed in this tightly-woven, carefully orchestrated world.
Upon reaching college however, I was presented with a unique challenge that I had never faced before: copious amounts of free time. If you google “college time management” you get over 19,700,000 results.
But how can someone who only goes to class 15 hours a week have time management issues?
As more and more children of my generation enter college and subsequently the workforce, we find ourselves unprepared for the lack of rigor in our lives. We are used to receiving structure, social connections and recognition from teachers, professors and our peers. Naturally, we transfer these expectations to our bosses and co-workers as we segue into the workforce.
So how do we feel when our bosses are too busy express recognition at our Herculean efforts and our co-workers would rather go home to their families than out to happy hour?
Lonely and kind of depressed.
Ryan Paugh over at Employee Evolution offers a solution in his post, You’ll Never Make it Big if Your Social Life Sucks:
Everyone seems to look up to people who get out of college and move into the city. Where I come from, New York is a big deal. And whenever someone gets a job and moves there, it’s like they have already become successful. There’s this glow about them that says, “Hey, I’m in NYC, I made it.”
It’s funny, because most of the people I know who have strolled into the city “living the dream” aren’t making that much money. Between rent, taxes, food and entertainment, some of them aren’t making anything at all.
The real success for these people is based on their social lives. The fact that they’re going out every weekend, meeting enormous amounts of people and feeling a sense of connection that a lot of people not in a large city miss out on.
But that’s not to say that you can’t make your social life work if you’re not in a city. You just have to try a lot harder.
But that’s a problem for a lot of people. After a long day, finding the physical and emotional energy to make a social life work can be frustrating. It’s a hell of a lot easier to sit on the couch, watch prime time television and go to sleep.
What I think Ryan is getting at is that we cannot allow our jobs to completely define us. No person can be fulfilled by just one aspect of their lives. It’s important to see yourself not just as a “programmer” or “banker” but also a “mountain biker,” “meals-on-wheels volunteer” or “celebrity-blogger.” It’s also essential to have a life outside of work to support you when things are stressful at the office.
It’s critical to explore your varied interests, desires and talents so that you can grow as a person and learn to be comfortable with yourself. These activities can also help build valuable job skills you wouldn’t get at your day job and also a wide network of contacts in other industries. While it takes work to try new things and meet new people, the rewards are invaluable.
Learning to see the person beyond the job description is not just a millennial issue. A recent article in the Seattle Times highlights the rising incidence of “multi-prong careers” among professionals holding a portfolio of several part-time jobs in different career fields.
A growing number of professionals…are opting out of the traditional one-job track. Instead, they are crafting a portfolio of careers comprising multiple part-time jobs that, when combined, are equivalent to a full-time position. The number of people pursuing these dual- or tri-track careers has doubled in the past couple of years, says John Challenger, president of the outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The types of people who craft portfolio careers are as diverse across age groups as they are across industries. This alternative approach to work isn’t just about cobbling together a patchwork of freelance gigs, but rather is a distinct career path that allows people to combine their interests and not be seriously penalized in the process.
While creating a “career portfolio” may be a bit extreme for most people, the message that pursuing multiple interests leads to high job as well as overall satisfaction is clear. These multi-career folks are proving that you cannot define a person by what they do from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.