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Are you Building Your Career Backwards?
August 12, 2022

If you ask people what they value in their career, the’ll list things like growth, culture, money, and stability. But, too often we look at our careers as a separate element of our life rather than an element within our life.

It’s like choosing to order a slice of pie without considering how the slice will fit into the rest of your meal. Will the pie complement the other things on your plate? Or will it spoil the taste?

Just how you need to find a dish that balances with the rest of your meal, you need to find (or create) a career that fits into the balance of the rest of your life.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 25, 35, or 55. It isn’t too late to start designing your career around your ideal life. To do this, you need to first get a clear picture as to what your ideal life looks like. You need to figure out what you want on your plate so you can then determine the type of career that fits best.

When I was 26, I was 5 years into a career that no longer fit into my overall lifestyle design. I knew I had to pivot. But, before I did so, I wanted to get clear on the type of career I was searching for.

To figure this out, I created a journaling exercise that I now call “My Career Non-Negotiables.” I listed all the things that my new career path needed in order to fit into my overall life vision. Here’s are a few examples from my list:

My Career Non-Negotiables (circa 2017):

  • Fully or partly remote work
  • Allows me to live in a city that inspires me
  • Flexible work schedule (no 9 – 5 requirement)
  • No limit to vacation days & no guilt around taking them
  • No need to check email when I’m “offline”
  • Job allows (or encourages) side-hustles
  • Job supports my life (and not the other way around)

From the list above you can get a sense of what was important to me at the time. I loved working but craved freedom while doing it. I wanted to travel and enjoy life while making a career. I also wanted to create barriers between work and personal life.

At the time, these career guidelines led me to accepting a job in sales at a startup and relocating to NYC. While the job wasn’t perfect in the long-run (I was let go after 18 months), it did fulfill all of my non-negotiable rules and created a path for the business I have today. And when I started the business, I referred back to my Non-Negotiables to ensure I built a business that fit into my ideal lifestyle.

It is tempting (and fun) to chase money and other career accolades. But if it’s eating into your time outside of work, then it may be worth questioning what you’re chasing at all.

While a slice of pie might be sweet and tasty, it is often a short-lived high. To truly create a great meal, one must zoom out and examine all the items on the menu to decide what fits together and creates balance.

Don’t build a life around your career – a trap that so many well-intentioned people fall into. Instead, take a moment to zoom out. Decide what you want your life to look like and then build a career around that vision.

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