On Career…

4 years ago by

I have dreadfully muddled up this editor’s letter.

I have started, stopped, re-wrote, botched and began again more times than I can count.

And now I’m on a train and I know Linne is going to text me at any moment to ask how it’s going because she needs to gracefully proof-read it and fix all my awful, sloppy typos before it goes live tomorrow morning.

So I’m going to do what I always do when I’m stuck. I’m going to make a list. A list of the things I know to be true of a career.

And look, I’m only 32, so I’m sure there’s much more to come. But this is what I’ve learned thus far.

1. It’s okay to not have a career. You can simply have a job that affords you the life you want to lead. It is completely acceptable to not be utterly inspired by your career, but to instead work hard at a job that lets you pursue your passions outside of the nine-to-five. Don’t believe this “one must love what they do” millennial hype we now live in. You must find a way to love your life, not what you do.

2. Your career is not a ladder, it’s Chutes and Ladders. That is to say you will not always be moving up. You will be moving up and down and sideways and maybe what feels like in circles for a bit. But you will be moving. And wherever there is movement, whether it’s up or down, there are lessons to be learned. And over time, you’ll find your overall trajectory to be on the up and up.

3. Before you decide you need a new job, get a horse. Okay, I know I have to explain this one. I received this advice from a man in a bar after I complained to him about feeling stuck in my career and possibly wanting to change jobs. He told me to get a horse. Not an actual horse (unless I wanted one), but a hobby that makes you feel as free as riding a horse. Because jumping from job to job, without a horse in your life, will be akin to jumping from patch to patch of quicksand. Having hobbies completed unrelated to your career will not only strengthen your abilities in your job, but they will strengthen your character. Asking someone about their hobbies in an interview is always the way I quietly ask about their character.

4. Your self-worth is independent to the success of your career. Prior to being hired on at DORÉ, I spent a year freelancing. I didn’t opt into the freelance life. I was forced into it when I struggled to find a full-time position. During that year, I watched my self-worth plummet to a place I barely recognize today. At the end of that year of freelancing, I acquired a job at DORÉ and my self-worth pole-vaulted back to a recognizable place. Watching that yo-yo effect of my self-worth actually taught me the most important thing about my career: that my self-worth is not tied to the success of my career.

While we continue to explore all things career this month on DORÉ, please, please remember your self-worth is not tied to the success of your career. It is the lesson I believe is the most important to learn.


Add yours
  • This letter is very timely! Since leaving high school (finishing top of the class) I had 4 years of successes: finished cum laude, got into a masters in Europe’s best university, got finance’s most coveted internships, all whilst maintaining a social life. Then in my last internship I felt miserable, and left. I am only 23 but my cluelessness and lack of a job and career-path really has impacted my self-worth. People who are older than me tell me to chill the f*** out, but it is hard in the face of increasing pressure from social media and “30 under 30” lists to be an “empowered female” with a perfect career

  • scristobal September, 2 2019, 12:25 / Reply

    It is an interesting perspective around the career topic and your points could provide links to new direction for reflexions. I like a lot your points. Great selection! However, I think that it is also important to send a different message to young professionals at the early stage of their working life that it is also OK to have a career. I am Professor at the University and scientist and we put a lot of effort to pass this message. Our message is more related with how to have a successful career and an enjoyable life, it is not a question of one or the other, young people should know that they can have both. Some of your points could be connected with how to overcome failure and move on in the career path.

  • Veronica McCarthy September, 3 2019, 9:33

    Hello! I totally agree that it is okay to have a career. I just found that I only received that message when I was early on in my career so I try to be the opposing voice, as I never encountered it myself. And totally re: successful career and enjoyable life. That is obviously a dream life, but might not be a dream life for everyone. Thanks so much for your thoughtful reaction to the post! x Veronica

  • I realized recently that my ability to enjoy my job is surprisingly linked to the way I dress. I am finding myself in a new position, a very important step in my career, and my salary allows me to be able to play with fashion. I am having so much fun with it, it’s totally worth a blog post!

  • Zaza of Geneva September, 3 2019, 3:06 / Reply

    Article très intéressant, mais il me semble qu’il manque une partie de la traduction française dans le point 1. …

  • Linne Halpern September, 3 2019, 9:30

    Hi Zaza! So sorry about that, the text has now been updated to reflect the full sentence. Thank you for your patience and hope you enjoy the rest of the essay! xx

  • Such a great and thought provoking letter! I was reading and nodding silently as even though I technically know and agree with all the points you raise sometimes it’s important to hear them from somebody else.

    I’ve followed a winding and complicated path and at 33 I’ve arrived at something that can be called a career. Yet I’m still not entirely content. I have side projects and hobbies and sometimes I wonder if I could make something else my career.

    I’m a design manager. Last year I started learning Japanese and really love it. So I’m thinking to myself, would it be really silly and irresponsible of me if in my mid 30s I’d drop my career and went off to teach English in Japan for a year or two? Earlier this year I started a travel blog and it’s brought me so much joy. I know people and I know of people who made blogging their career, is this something I could do too? But whilst I understand this is a real job, I don’t want my friends who have serious careers like lawyers and doctors to take me less seriously because I’m a blogger. It still feels a little bit shallow and vain when I take lots of pictures of my food in a restaurant or do a photo shoot, it doesn’t quite go in line with my day job as a serious professional. On top of that I’m also half way through a construction management masters. Because I enjoy that field too.

    I never wanted to freelance as I really appreciate the safety and security of a regular paycheck and all the added benefits like health insurance, pension, paid sick leave, paid annual leave, etc. But lately I also developed a yearning for more freedom, thanks to working on some super uninspiring projects.

    At 33 there’s still so much I don’t know and so much that’s unclear. Especially when I look at my friends who seem to have it all figured out.

    But at 33 I’m also a lot more comfortable in my own skin and I’m a lot more comfortable with not knowing or not having a clear career path I want to follow.

  • Comme quoi, il faut y aller à l’instinct – ce post est une perfection de bons conseils de bon sens.

  • Very good article, I wish I had this to read when I was your age. It is ok not to have a career, but I like how you say – have a job you work hard so to enjoy other pursuits, this is especially true now when social media is telling us all to “love what we do” it tends to leave out that no matter the choice there is is ALWAYS tough hard days and you need to push through them,! Thank you

  • I read (and think) a lot about career, life etc. This article/ list ;) is one of the best things I’ve read about career and life. Thank you.

  • Mariateresa September, 5 2019, 8:57 / Reply

    My career has stopped 15 years ago when I decided to back home, by my loving parents who now aren’ t ever more – sigh – and I was a journalist but in my Town, Bari, Italy, I not founded job so I live in home without money, but with more satisfaction, beyond the stress of job location and people not empaty! And now I don’t have to expense in wearing!

  • Veronica,

    Ton post m’a donné envie de me livrer à mon tour sur ce sujet. Je pense que l’essentiel dans la vie c’est de trouver un équilibre qui nous rend heureux. Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec toi : l’important c’est d’aimer sa vie et pas son job. Cependant quand tu passes 8h par jour à faire quelque chose qui ne te plait pas, dans lequel tu ne trouves aucun épanouissement, il est difficile d’être heureux dans ta vie perso.

  • This post resonates with me so much. It expresses my thoughts better than I could express them myself. I cringe every time I pass a “do what you love” billboard or bumper sticker. Yes, it is on actual billboards. Reading this post (especially point four) felt like a catharsis of sorts. I will bookmark this page and come back to read it often.

  • Merci beaucoup pour ce post! J’ai 23 ans et je travaille depuis que j’ai 18 ans, d’abord des jobs d’été puis plein de longs stages : startup, agence de communication et marque internationale de chocolats de luxe. J’ai connue très jeune cet état de “flow”, quand tu fais quelques chose et que ça t’absorbe tellement au point d’oublier le monde qui t’entoure, j’arrive toujours à être dans cet état quand je cuisine et qu’à ce moment là, mon portable et les notifications reçues sont loin de moi. Je pensais qu’en faisant des stages dans des entreprises qui me plaisaient j’allais retrouver cet état parce que je croyais qu’aimer son job c’était vraiment être en état de flow. En fait, c’est rarement le cas, j’ai pas mal observé les gens qui bossaient avec moi et je me suis réellement interrogée sur ce qui motivait les gens à se lever le matin pour faire un job qui ne les passionne pas forcément, les raisons sont multiples et souvent assez évidentes : payer ses factures, maintenir une vie sociale, ne pas être oisif, être bien vu de la société (après la question de comment on s’appelle vient obligatoirement celle de ce qu’on fait dans la vie)… alors oui, en conclusion on ne fait pas toujours un job qui nous passionne mais il nous permet d’avoir un toit sur la tête et de vivre en cohésion avec ce qui nous importe. Se créer un équilibre est la clé, si on a un job qui nous passionne c’est top mais ce n’est pas une obligation et de toutes façons il y aura toujours des aspects moins reluisants qu’il nous faudra accepter (dans la limite de ce que l’on juge acceptable). Il faut se concentrer sur ce qui est important pour nous (pour moi c’est cuisiner, partir en voyage) et se fixer des petits buts tout en travaillant. Je ne sais toujours pas ce que je vais faire de ma vie mais je sais quel style de vie je veux avoir et il me faudra trouver un équilibre, je pense qu’on ne considère pas assez cette question de style de vie lorsqu’on s’oriente dans le monde professionnel, c’est dommage.

  • You have spoken the truth. People need to embrace their confidence and believe that they can be whatever or whoever they want to be and stop focusing on work as if it is the be all, no!
    At a party ? a person asked ‘what do you do’ and i replied ‘nothing’ I wasn’t even lying but she felt so uncomfortable that she couldn’t wait to walk on by???
    Sadly she subconsciously didn’t realise that her 9 to 5 work was already defining her! Suffice to say I am back at work that I am very much enjoying and it is defo not my life either!!

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