A couple of months ago, TheLadders, a full-service career resource for professionals, asked me to write a blog post offering career advice to recent college graduates. With this topic being so near and dear to my heart, I offered to prepare not one but three:
- Part 1 gives you the perspective of my millennial children and stepchildren.
- Part 2 gives you the perspective of several of my mostly baby-boomer colleagues.
- Part 3 (this one!) gives you my own reflections on personal and professional success.
I hope you find our remarks helpful. We invite you to share your thoughts and questions in the Speak Your Mind comment box below.
We Long to Lead a Life That Matters
At 23, equipped with education and enthusiasm, I set out to “change the world” – or, at the very least, to do something worthwhile within my sphere of influence. I couldn’t possibly envision the details; I just knew I was called to make a significant difference somehow somewhere and that I had a special place in my heart for those who were struggling.
I see the same determination to live a life of significance in my children and stepchildren, in my friends and clients, and in those whom I may never meet but deeply admire.
**Who wants to live a meaningless life? I strongly believe that each of us would make a positive difference in the world if we could. Many, however, have to focus so hard on survival, or perhaps on overcoming a brutal childhood or debilitating illness, that living a life of true significance seems beyond their reach until their own survival, security, and/or wellness needs are met.
For many, our quest to live a significant life is directly related to the work we do in the marketplace: our career, our business, our profession. We want our work to matter!
We’re Wired for Service to Others
So we have the Inner Desire to lead a meaningful life, both personally and professionally. What else do we need? What else do we already have?
Gifts, Talents, Skills, Abilities — and the Faith and Perseverance to run the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
We need to examine what gifts and talents we innately possess; what skills, abilities, and character traits we have already attained; and what skills, abilities, and character traits we need to develop.
We need to know who we are, where we’re going, and what else we need to attain to equip ourselves for the journey. In short:
Get clear on your vision. And develop the discipline, skills, and determination you need to go the distance!
I offer below a few questions that may help you conduct your self-examination:
- Who are You at your Core?
- What are your Gifts and Talents?
- Who is your True Self?
- What is your True Purpose?
- What is your Vision for Your Life?
- What other Skills and Abilities do you need to acquire to help you follow your Vision and fulfill your True Purpose?
As you begin your first job or start your first entrepreneurial endeavor, you’re embarking on an exciting phase of your life journey. Whether you’re aware of doing so or not, you’re focusing on the lower/foundational stages of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
You’re developing your identity, your ego; you’re learning how to survive successfully; you’re acquiring the self-confidence you need to step out in the world and make a difference. Equally important, you’re building significant relationships with others, some of whom will accompany you throughout your life journey.
You’re in what psychologist/psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) referred to as the first half of life. Enjoy it!! Sure, you’ll have ups and downs, perhaps more downs than ups. But that’s how we grow. It’s through our hard-times, our challenges, that we’re able to help people even better, especially when we enter the second half of life where we focus more on the development of our soul than on the needs of our ego.
So relax and enjoy, and know that any struggles you experience will equip you to make an even more significant difference in the lives of others.
We Move From Worldly Success to Sacred Success
When Carl Jung spoke of our “two halves of life,” he wasn’t referring to the passage of time – to the number of birthday candles on our cake. Rather, he was referring to our progression from focusing on our ego’s needs to focusing on our soul’s development, which naturally includes service to others. This movement, I believe, can happen at any age, not just when we’re 40 or 50+.
Right now, as you embark on your career journey, you’re building your identity, your confidence, your status, your bank account. Great!
But I encourage you to remember that your soul is on this journey with you (from here to eternity). It’s our responsibility to develop our soul while we’re here on earth, not just nurture the needs of our ego.
One of my favorite verses comes from the book of Micah, a prophet who was keenly sensitive to the social ills of his day. The wisdom contained in these mighty words serve beautifully as a guiding light for our personal and professional journey:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8
Another guiding light verse is from the book of Mark, one of Jesus’ disciples. Like Micah 6:8, it helps us remember what truly matters as we pursue our personal and professional endeavors:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” ~Mark 12:28-31
- If we look at our career, if we look at our life, from an eternal perspective, we will be able to make wiser decisions–make wiser choices–and not sweat the small stuff.
- If we remember that we are not alone–that God wants to work through us to make a positive difference in this world–we will be excited about what each day will bring.
- If we trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), He will direct our paths!
My prayer for you is that, as you strive to make a difference in the lives of others, you’ll “act justly,” and “love mercy,” and “walk humbly” with your God.
My hope for you is that you enjoy the journey!
Grace and Peace to You in Abundance,
Photo by Flickr (Michelle TeGrootenhuis)