Growing Your Career Takes Time: 17 Things to Remember Along the Way

Growing your career takes time.

At the age of 7 or 8, what were you focused on? Were you thinking about what you wanted to do as you got older?

I remember wanting to start my own art business. I didn’t think of it as a business idea then, but I can confidently say this now in hindsight. It wasn’t an obsession or anything, just a thought here and there. I remember showing my mom a car I drew and saying, “I want to draw pictures like this and sell them to people.”

More than 20 years later, I still haven’t started that art business. I think about it often, but I’ve done other things instead.

Mastery and influence takes work and time.

The idea of career can be fluid.

Your career can grow more focused overtime or completely change over the years, as a result of your interests or necessity. Often a combination of both at different times. It could be introduced through a series of opportunities or be the undertaking of life-long dreams.

Wherever your idea of career falls on that spectrum, don’t expect to build it overnight. Mastery and influence in any area takes work and time. Here are 16 more thoughts to remember along the way:

Just because you aren’t being paid (much) for your work, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

Work, in its most basic form, can be any activity requiring your physical and mental effort for a specific purpose. This means we can find work anywhere, from the office to the kitchen sink, whether it is passion or provision driven.

Chris-Ann Manning-Forde, Am I a Workaholic? A Resume and Book Editor on the Purpose of Work and its Power Over Us

I want to start by acknowledging caregivers.

Parents: parenting is work too. It requires a great deal of emotional and physical energy from us to help our little people (and bigger people) grow into caring, mature human beings that have the skills to (eventually) support themselves financially and make a life of their own.

To the wider group of caregivers: your work is important. Each and every day you give your time and energy to support your family members and loved ones through sickness or a variety of every-day or more challenging circumstances. The task can often feel unfulfilling, under-appreciated and draining. I see you. Thank-you. Remember to take the time you need to replenish.

To others in unpaid forms of work through internships, spearheading passion/community projects, volunteering, even starting a business: there are so many individuals, communities and organizations that depend on you for your assistance, expertise, conversation, innovation and care. Thank-you. As you build (or lend) your skills and experience, remember this is only part of your journey. Learn as much as you can.

Be prepared to teach yourself as you go along.

…Getting into [nursing] was hard. When I started, like anyone else, I didn’t have much experience. It was a year before I got a position. One agency took a chance on me. There was no training and I had to teach myself as I went along. The rest is history.

Samantha A., We Work For Every Penny: A Nurse’s Thoughts on Personal Stories, Gratitude and Being More Aware of Your Time

Make time for rest.

I’m having to change the way I look at hard work as part of my identity. While it does bring value, there must be rest. Without rest, I won’t be able to function as a human being. All work and no rest is a recipe for destruction.

Sephton S., Human Beings Have Their Limits: An Educator’s Perspective on Hard Work, Burnout and Rest

Use unfortunate circumstances as opportunities.

At first, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was 17 and in my last year of high school, and was just diagnosed with Lupus. Because of the Lupus, I was in and out of school, and spent a lot of time at home. That is when I really had a chance to explore cooking as a profession.  During that time, I watched a lot of cooking shows and I tried different things. Once I was able to return to school, I took an extra year and did a co-op at a lunch time restaurant…. Through that experience, I realized I was good at it, and it came easy to me. 

Octavia C., Their Pain is Real: A Chef Shares How She Started Her Career and Experience with Disability

Learn to pivot when things don’t go according to plan.

It was initially frustrating to find something directly in my field so I decided to broaden my horizons and apply for jobs in the wider industry in order to get experience. My ideal would be working in Speech Therapy or Communication. I did a graduate Communicative Disorder Assistant Program. When I took this opportunity, I knew it was for the purpose of growth.

Libby R., Putting Your Knowledge Into Action: A Rehab Worker’s Thoughts on the Importance of Compassion and Lived-Experience

Sometimes people will disagree with your ideas. Keep going.

I saw a system where it was more about selling in the name of “financial education” instead of preparing and equipping clients to make financial decisions that were best for themselves….I was already doing a lot of budgeting for clients. Other advisors told me I wouldn’t make any money in it. I still believed that the most important thing was to help people manage their money better, so I had to figure out a way to help people by balancing planning and educating them at the same time.

Seun A., Not Something that Starts or Ends: A Financial Planner on Purpose, Retirement and Building a Business

Don’t let discrimination stop you from doing your best work.

My mom was an Egyptian immigrant who moved to North America not knowing much English. My dad was a black man from Jamaica. Both of them worked in corporate and both faced a lot of discrimination for their gender and/or the colour of their skin. My mom was firmly rooted in who she was as a person (as was reinforced throughout a lifetime by her father…note to the dads out there) and she wouldn’t let those situations have a lasting impact. She always let her work speak for itself. 

Joshua B., Let Your Work Speak for Itself: A Business Owner’s Perspective on Work Ethic and Growing His Business

Your past does not define your future.

I’m thankful for my mom and for that special education teacher. They advocated for me when I wasn’t sure how to advocate for myself. They gave me hope that those experiences wouldn’t define my future and by God’s grace, they haven’t. My present job involves analyzing and solving complex situations daily. I was told that my potential, the clarity of my assessments, and productivity contributed to my promotions in the last few years.

Rohan F., Corporate Ladders and Contentment: A Risk Management Professional on Childhood Dreams and Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Often, the biggest battle will be with yourself.

When I first decided to go into business full-time, I fell flat on my face. I had amazing mentors around me. I had strategies, but I would continue to sabotage myself. Because I was smart in some areas, I didn’t think of asking for help. I thought I didn’t need help….I had to create a program for my own mind to reverse a lot of the mindsets I had, many of which I had picked up from christian circles that weren’t biblical. It changed the trajectory of my business.

Toyin C., I Didn’t Want to be Labeled: A Mindset Coach on Discussing Wealth in the Church

Make the time to keep learning.

The second thing I would say is to take that time and invest in what you want to do, whether it’s education, money or energy. Go to conferences, take necessary courses and practice. Be aware of your distractions (social media, netflix etc.) and don’t let them prevent you from experiencing life and doing things that are important to you.

Nana A., Trying to Make a Difference: A Writer’s Perspective on Youth Engagement, the Writing Process and Prioritizing Your Time

Maintain your integrity.

Another [factor] I would say is identity: not allowing work to dictate who I am. For instance, choosing to be myself  in the role that corporate hired me for versus operating in the specific way that corporate wants me to portray. There is always the pressure to fall in line with corporate politics and ways of communication. I don’t want to simply react like another cog in the machine. I try to intentionally choose the right and helpful thing, over just making people happy. Sometimes it’s easy to cave in, but I try to be intentional about doing what is right, even when it might cost me.

Ricardo R., Work Won’t Dictate Who I Am: A Customer Experience Manager on Job Loss and Maintaining Your Identity in a Corporate Setting

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a degree.

Even the position I’m working in, is a testament of who you know and how you work. The requirements for my position require a degree and I don’t have one. I didn’t think I was going to get this position. I went into the interview really scared of not having a degree when they asked for one. Instead of focusing on the fear, I went in being myself and spoke to my quality of work. You need to trust God that you’re equipped for whatever is before you. If this is where you’re supposed to be at this moment, a degree is not going to stand in the way. 

Nakita J., A Degree Won’t Stand in the Way: An Assistant Manager’s Thoughts on Post-Secondary Education and Staying in your Own Lane

Use your support system. Create one if you need to.

I was fortunate to have parents who didn’t give me a ceiling. They listened to me when I said I wanted to be a scientist, and then a doctor, when I dropped biology and calculus and finally, when I said I wanted to go to law school. Although we were immigrants to this country, my parents came alongside me in doing research to figure out the route to law school. For me it was my parents, but it might be a different support system for you. Use your supports and create those supports if you don’t have one.

Nadine W., Give Your Time and Make Real Change: A Lawyer’s Advice on Creating a Support System and Investing in Yourself.

Be willing to take risks.

Be agile. Always be thinking of the next opportunity. At least be a planner. Think as far as you can think. Don’t be thinking that right now is all that there is. When you’re young, you should be thinking about what the next opportunity is, especially if you have hopes of doing certain things or acquiring certain things….That’s what I realized: in our younger years, we didn’t know what we were doing, but we were willing to take the steps.

April, Do What You Have to Do: Thoughts on Moving to Another Country, Nearing Retirement and Advice to Younger Generations.

Mentors are important.

An important thing to keep in mind as you go through life is to surround yourself with models, mentors and elders who can see further down the road than you can.

Dr. Wendell A., Moving Beyond Work: 3 Ways to Build Authentic Community

Know your purpose for your work.

Why do you work?

For some, work is a way to lift themselves or their families out of poverty. For others, it’s about building wealth, status, or legacy. For some, work is about proof: proof of competence, ability, intelligence, worth, equality. For others, work spearheads change: change in lifestyle, change in our families, change in our local communities, change globally, change in our systems, secular and sacred.

For some, work is creativity on display, whether as a writer, artist, or performer. They want to tell nuanced stories and give ideas life through clay, song, or ink. For others, work is about searching out this world, every atom and organism, every motive and action, every algorithm and hypothesis to gain further insight into how we as humans interact with the world, to encourage innovation and explore possibilities. The ways we approach work aren’t limited to those I’ve mentioned, so feel free to insert your own.

Chris-Ann Manning-Forde, Am I a Workaholic? A Resume and Book Editor on the Purpose of Work and its Power Over Us

Once again, wherever your idea of career falls on that spectrum, don’t expect to build it overnight. Mastery and influence in any area takes work and time. I hope these 17 thoughts will keep you encouraged on your career journey.

Last edited: November 16, 2020

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