When I was considering whether to pursue a Master's in Counseling, I went to talk to a highly respected career professional about it.
When I lamented that it would take me until I was 45 to complete the program, he said to me, ”You need to think in terms of a 200-year plan.“
At the time I thought he was crazy, but now I hear myself saying the exact same thing to my clients.
We've become accustomed to hearing the story of a professional life told almost exclusively in terms of outstanding accomplishments.
Ask an athlete to reflect on his career and he'll tell you about the time he pitched a no-hitter. Ask an actress and she'll talk about landing the lead in a Tony-winning Broadway play. Ask a writer and he'll recall how it was his third novel that lifted him from obscurity and made him a best-selling author.
These public, universally acknowledged achievements, which everyone recognizes as peak moments, are what we've come to expect when someone looks back on their life.
There’s a lot we can learn from the stories of our professional life—if we tell them in a way that enables us to hear what they really have to say to us. Too often we are satisfied with forcing our career stories to fit the mold of a resume, which is a formal exercise with a fixed external purpose (i.e., getting a job).
A career autobiography, on the other hand, is a free-form narrative with an evolving internal purpose.
When we begin to tell our career stories as stories instead of trying to make them conform to some predetermined set of specifications, we make discoveries about ourselves and tap the springs of our internal wisdom.
We may not be to breadlines yet, but unless you've been in a coma or you're independently wealthy you probably can't help noticing that these are hard times. Job "insecurity" is affecting all but the highest rungs on the employment ladder.
The economic repercussions of 9/11, the ongoing replacement of people with technologies, the outsourcing of ever-growing numbers of manufacturing and service jobs to foreign countries, all are making it harder and harder to feel confident that America is still the land of opportunity. And this is true even for those of us with a good education and in-demand skills.