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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: Doing…or having done to you – from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: Doing…or having done to you – from the Career Opportunities Podcast

February 21st, 2014

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It is rare for life to present you with a simple either/or situation. Normally, life is lived in shades of grey – an almost infinite set of possibilities. That said, while talking over career problems with some friends last night, we stumbled across a dichotomy that every careerist faces today. In your career, and in your life, you can either “do something” or have something done to you. You can either control your career or let someone else dictate what you do and when you do it.

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This dichotomy occurs whether you are working in a traditional corporate environment or for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you are the most senior or the most junior member of the staff. We all have the power of “doing”, but if we fail to exercise that power, then we give up any chance of controlling our own career.

As my friends and I talked last night, I noticed one important aspect to our conversation. From the very start, we were focusing on the externalities of the situation. This person, this company, this organization was causing these particular problems for us. Once I realized this, I tried to bring the conversation around to internal strengths, weaknesses and threats. In the end, we only truly have control over ourselves and our own actions. If we focus our attention there, we will always have more effect. This is true for one important reason – while it is very difficult to change ourselves, it is nearly impossible to change others. They have to come to their own decisions about their lives and careers. You can only provide a good example and show them how life can be different. You can’t force them to change; you can only show them a path.

Sure, it can be very distressing to realize that you can’t have a direct impact on a situation that pains you greatly. We all see problems and injustices of varying levels, but they often require drastic or dangerous actions to effect them, if you can effect them at all. By focusing on ourselves and our actions, we can start the process moving in the best way possible. This also helps to prevent problems from devolving into acrimonious, personal battles that distract from the true problem at hand.

Let me be clear, “doing it” has nothing to do with taking advantage of others or engaging in unethical or criminal behavior. You are not trying to gain advantage at someone else’s expense, you a simply trying to build the best career you possibly can. The fact is, others have the power of “doing” just like you do. If they decide to abdicate that role, and let life happen to them, there is little you can do to stop it.

Neither should it stop you from taking those steps that are most important to you. Otherwise, we become a passive society, each waiting for someone else to tell us what to do. I only need point to history to show how dangerous such and environment can become. When the majority of the people are passive, there will always be those who will take advantage and turn the company, the corporation or the state to their own ends.

So, what form does this “doing” take? If you are in a corporate environment, there are several ways you can take action. If you are happy with the company, then you can work to cement your position in the company by reinforcing and enhancing the company’s goals. Building the company builds your job and your career. Additionally, in order to protect yourself against unforeseen changes, you should also have several independent projects in the works. Perhaps you can take a hobby and find some way to build this into your own business, or act as a consultant to other, non-competing companies, or set yourself up as an expert in a particular field to bring you income and prestige in your industry. Regardless of the form it takes, like any good stock investor, you need to diversify your activities and find those places where you “do” on a regular basis.

If you are already a freelancer, then you have already embraced this “doing, rather than having done to you” concept in some small way. Otherwise, you would have never struck on your own. That said, you need to address this issue every day and in every project or transaction. Your support structures are limited outside of a large company, so you have to build them internally, both mentally and in your business. You must always be “doing” perhaps even more than you do already. I know this is the case in my own personal career. No matter how much I do, there is always more I could be doing. Finding these opportunities for expansion are what drives your career forward.

In business, as in life, you can do something or you can have something done to you by others. It should be clear where you want to be in that equation. You have the ability, the talent and desire to do great things in your career, but this can only happen when you turn your focus inward and start doing what truly matters most to you.

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