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Why We Need a New Definition of Career

career Jul 05, 2019

What comes to mind when you hear the word "career?" What comes to mind with regard to your own career?

The traditional definition of a career is “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” This definition is outdated and reminiscent of the days when you landed a job and stayed there until you retired. The economic crash in the 1980's marked the end of this traditional idea of career in my opinion.

Merriam-Webster's definition is "a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling," which reflects a more modern take on the definition of career. However, the idea of a "permanent calling" still implies a singular path to the work we do in the world.

A new definition

My definition is much more simplistic. I define career as "the work you're meant to do in the world." Today you can have "career" as an entrepreneur or employee. Your training for your "career" can be formal or self-taught. It's not about having a job for an extended period of time, it's about where and how you apply your strengths, skills, talents, gifts and abilities. 

The analogy I like to use a bag of marbles and a sandbox. Under the old definition, you would get educated and trained (your marbles) and then proceed to find the one sandbox in which you'd play with your marbles for a significant amount of time until you quit or retired. 

Under my definition, you'd take your life experiences, education, skills, etc. (your marbles), and look for a variety of sandboxes that fit your values, passion, and purpose and use your marbles to serve for as long as you wanted or was needed. 

Why a new definition

Along with a more expansive definition of career (to include entrepreneurs and business owners), I believe my new definition also does away with, what I call, the "time for money" equation that's implied in "training for a permanent calling."

The "time for money" equation doesn't leave room for things like joy, passion, meaning or purpose as it relates to the work you do. Today's professional wants greater alignment and integration between who they are and what they do. Ideally, work should be an extension of you and not something that requires you to step out of yourself to perform.

Also, the "time for money" equation is what has kept my clients trapped on the top of that ladder they've climbed. This is a trap that has forced them to focus on the importance of progressing up the career ladder, constantly searching for greater titles, more money, status and power. 

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, it can be harmful in the long-term if it causes you to overlook other aspects of your life that you value. Therefore, if I choose to become a baker instead of a lawyer, there's no shame, guilt, comparison, or judgement. 

With a new definition of "career" there also needs to be a new definition of "career coach," but I'll save that for another blog.

What do you think? Should we rethink the definition of career? Share your comments below!

Live, laugh and unapologetically shine,





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