Doug Schneider, a good friend of mine, recently sent this LinkedIn post to me. Doug Is a very wise man, whom I have seen, over the past 20 years, rise from the ranks to become a successful CEO of a software company which he took public in 2013. I got to know him when he was an executive in charge of innovation at Thomson Reuters in Ann Arbor.
His advice in this piece is spot on. I hope it encourages you to also reflect on. What career advice you would like to pass on to folks younger than yourself. Send in your ideas and I’d be happy to publish them in the future.
Ten Things I Would Tell Myself About Careers If I Could Go Back In Time (By Doug Schneider)
About ten years ago, someone working for me asked me for career advice. I was in the middle of a really busy day, but I like thinking about such things and I took the time to write her an email with ten thoughts about careers; the first ones that came to my mind. Then I forgot about it. Then I left the job I was in and, a few years later, she found the email and sent it back to me. And she thanked me. (She’s a grateful-type person).
When I read them over again, they still made sense to me – maybe even more sense than when I first wrote them. Here they are:
Thought One- You can’t divorce your career plan from your life plan
Lots of people want to plan their career separate from their life. But it doesn’t work that way. Where you want to live, who you want to live with, what else (besides working) you want to do with your time, even your obligations to family and friends – all of these things impact and probably constrain your career options. There are always trade-offs. Don’t obsess about this and by all means don’t allow yourself to become a victim. These constraints are part of life; and there can be an elegance to creating and designing your career within these constraints. Plus, people who are solely focused on their careers are boring.
Thought Two – Get Clear on Your Relationship with Money
Undoubtedly, money is on your list of constraints – and probably you want more of it. The first key when it comes to money is to be honest about how important it is to you. What are you willing to trade-off for more money? The second money issue to is be able to distinguish between what you must have and what you want to have. They are different. If you are confused about this, check out the wonderful book called Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin Voluntary Simplicity . I once asked a friend of mine who is a life-coach to many people about money, and he said, “I can tell you exactly how much money people want – which is a bit more than they currently have.” Only you can decide – when it comes to money – when “enough is enough.” Don’t let anyone else answer this question for you.
Thought Three – Never take a job Only for the Money
While money will always be a factor, if you know in your heart you are ONLY taking the job for the money you are likely headed for problems. Or at least I was. I took a job only for the money once – it was about 50% more than what I was making – and the job was a disaster. A disaster as in eventually the place I was now working in that lucrative job just ran out of money. I learned a lot; including never to take a job only for the money again – but it was all the kind of learning that you only want to do once.
Thought Four- Positional power is Transient
It’s great to have a big title – it’s definitely an ego boost and sometimes (but not always) it gets people to take you seriously, even more seriously than perhaps they should. But one thing I can tell you for sure about positional power is that it will not last forever. And, if you thrive on being called a CEO and that’s really what matters, the day will come when no one will call you that anymore. This is inevitable. The kind of power that really matters in this life is personal power – the power that you get from building your character, from enduring tough times, from coming back from failure, from learning how to be tenacious, and from learning how to be graceful and kind. At some point in your career, make the choices that enhance your personal power, rather than just going after the next big title.
Thought Five – If you are educated and competent, there are many things you Could do. Do the things that You are Uniquely Qualified to do. Do the things that make you feel Most Alive
Over the course of a long professional career, I’ve only had one job where I knew that I was uniquely qualified to do it – or at least it would have been really challenging for them to replace me. They say no one is irreplaceable and they are right about that – but sometimes the universe does really present you with a close match between what you are passionate about, what you are actually quite good at, and what someone is willing to pay you for. It happened to me once. I created the job, which took me a few years to do. And it worked out great for everyone involved.
Thought Six – Work is Sacred. Treat it as such
Things go better when you realize that work is a sacred thing. We’ve all had times when we are mailing it in, and while the paychecks keep coming the worst part of mailing it is this- what it does to you. But work – of all kinds – really matters to people. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t want to find the meaning in their work. The meaning of work is often found in the struggle and sometimes in the joy. In the second professional job that I ever had, my day ended at 3 a.m. the day after I was supposed to leave the place. Not because anyone else was demanding that, but because I cared. Work is sacred.
Thought Seven – Don’t be afraid to work outside your Comfort Zone, on the Edge of Chaos
I’ve worked on innovations of all forms – product innovations, organizational innovations, new market innovations, operational innovations. It seems that real progress always happens when you begin to step outside your comfort zone, perhaps even the organization’s comfort zone. It begins with an act of courage, even with the risk of looking stupid. The edge of chaos is where everyone, including you, will learn the most. Plus, in the end it’s just more fun and memorable to find your own way outside your comfort zone.
Thought Eight – Don’t spend Years doing something that You Know in Your Head you don’t want to do.
I took a class on Creativity in Business one time, and the professor encouraged us to use mantras, which he called “live-withs.” We kept a weekly journal of how we experienced these live-withs. One of my favorite live-withs was, “Everything is either a Yes or No.” In other words, you need to learn to say Yes or No to the opportunities of life. I think this applies to careers. Every career and every job can have its challenges, but when the voice in your head tells you over and over again you don’t want to be there, it’s time to step back and listen. Don’t become that person/ victim who always complains about their job but doesn’t have the courage to make a change.
Thought Nine – Dream Big, then Take Steps Towards Your Dream
You will meet many people along the way who can think big and wow you with their brilliance. But they can’t seem to ever translate their big ideas into what to do on Monday morning. You will also meet many incredibly disciplined and focused and hard-working people who are all about getting things done. It is far less common to meet people who can think big and think small at the same time; who can dream and then translate those dreams into action. Work on becoming one of these people and you will be amazed at the results.
Thought Ten – Sometimes you’ve got to Re-invent Yourself. This requires a Leap, which is Scary, because in that leap you must give up part of who you were
One of the prices of having some success is that the world will want to reward you for what you’ve already done – and ask you to keep doing that same thing over and over. Recruiters are always asked to find someone who has “done it before.” But if you already know you can do something, are you really sure you want to repeat that experience? As people age, they don’t regret their failures as much as they regret the dreams that they never chased. The best decisions you will ever make will be when you chase a dream, even if they don’t totally work out. Because in chasing that dream, you will grow and improve and learn about your own resilience.
You can find Doug’s blog – about life, work, and running – at http://www.dougschneider.net.
His upcoming book, Ten Marathons: Finding the Soft Ground in a Hard World, is a memoir on running and life lessons. It will be published in March 2019. He will speak at the April Leaders Connect on work, life lessons, and his book. “