What Work to Create?

Create work.

What does that mean? Doesn’t sound very appealing. “I have enough work,” you say. “Besides, you don’t create work. You DO work.”

Here’s what I mean when I say “create work.”

You do not have to fit yourself into somebody else’s box.
You don’t have to “find” a job. (Stick with me. I’ll explain more later.)
You don’t have to look for work that someone else has pre-defined for you in terms of tasks and responsibilities.
That’s all reactive. The key in today’s world of work is to be proactive.

You CAN create work.
It starts with you – knowing who you are, what you do well, what comes naturally to you, what you love to do, what matters to you, and where you want to make a contribution.

It starts with knowing yourself and what you have to offer, not with what’s available in the marketplace and how to fit or stuff yourself into it. (Boxes rarely fit, particularly job boxes. They are usually proscriptive, not descriptive. And, job boxes are almost always focused on skill performance, not talent expression. You want a place that will allow you, encourage you, and reward you for using your talents.)

When you create work, it can take numerous forms.

You can work in a job. (In fact, 50% of clients go on to work in a job. On their own terms. Sculpted and formed around what they have to contribute.)
You can create a role for yourself in a company.
You can work with a team.
You can work on a project, or a collection or projects.
You can start something yourself.
You can build a practice.
You can start a business or new venture.
You can create and market a product, digital or physical, here or abroad, by yourself or with others.
You can freelance, work part-time, full-time, in a partnership…whatever you choose.

The form the work takes is up to you. It’s a decision.

What matters is that the work allows you to use and develop your talents – your unique special abilities – so that you can make a contribution, on your terms, in your own way to benefit a company, team, project or entity, and be well-paid.

You decide what to do, how you will contribute, why it matters, what it’s worth, and educate others about the impact you’ll make.

That’s your job.

Not Your Father's Work

Your work is not the work of your father, your mother, your grandparents or your great-grandparents.

Your work is your work. Your choice.

You get to decide what work means to you and the role you want it to play in your life.

Is it simply the means by which you can generate a paycheck to pay the bills until you die? Or can it be something else? Something more?

We are told that work is necessary. Work is what you do if you want to be a successful, responsible adult. We are advised to work hard in school, in college, in our jobs, in our careers. Hard work is a virtue, but does work have to be hard?

If you look up work in the dictionary, you’ll see that the first couple of definitions are “labor,” “drudgery,” and “toil.” Gee…not very inspiring.

Why can’t work be fun? Why can’t it be inspiring? Why can’t you expect it to be fulfilling? You can.

You get to decide what you want your work to mean to you. Will it simply be the means by which you make a living? Or do you want more?

Here are some thoughts:

Work is the means by which you get to contribute your talents to the world.
Work is a creative act.
Work is a way to learn, grow and develop as an individual.
Work allows you to hone your skills.
Work offers you a significant way to engage with the world, to be a part of it.
Work enables you to receive value in exchange for the value you provide.
Work is fun!
Work is inspirational.
Work is how you find meaning, or contribute something meaningful.
Work is the way you fulfill your purpose and your potential.
Work is a form of self-fulfillment.
Work is how you serve God (Spirit, the universe, or whatever you worship).
Work is a spiritual act.
“Work is an excuse adults made to play with one another.” – Silver Rose

What does work mean to you and what role does it play in your life? Your answer will define your career choices and your work journey. You are not defined by your past. You get to decide.

What Do I Do Now?

It sucks when you don’t know what you want to do.

You’re talented.
You’re gifted.
You know you have a lot to give. And, you want to make a difference. You just can’t figure out how. And, now you find yourself spinning your wheels, wasting time.

You’ve made your mark in the past. Maybe you’ve been a successful marketing executive, leading product marketing campaigns that have made your company a lot of money, but you’ve been there, done that and want to use your abilities to make a bigger impact.

Or maybe you have been an award-winning copywriter who has created advertising campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands, but the work doesn’t feel meaningful and you long to use your writing abilities to make a difference.

Or maybe you are known for your ability to lead teams to achieve results, except that you’ve been doing it within a company and now you long to do this work for yourself, on your terms, instead of reporting to corporate.

Or maybe you had a pretty high-powered career, but you took some time off to raise your children and now you want to get back into the job market...but on your terms and in line with who you’ve become.

Or, whatever. Whatever your individual situation might be.

The point is that you are ready to do work on your terms, to make a bigger impact and to do something that feels meaningful, except you haven’t a clue how to go about it.

This is where I can help.

DO WHAT YOU LOVE: What do you enjoy doing? What kinds of things come so easily to you that when you do them, it doesn’t feel like work? What are you really good at? (Sorry English majors for the dangling participle!) What is fun for you? What are your talents? What are you known for? What sets you apart from other people who do what you do? How can you weave your skills and experiences together with these talents to make a bold proposition for the marketplace?

FIND WHAT MATTERS TO YOU: Work won’t be meaningful unless you can link what you love with what you believe in. You must define for yourself what matters to you. In what do you believe deeply? Here’s an example: one of my clients believes very deeply that everyone has the right to eat healthy food, regardless of socio-economic background. And, so he made a decision to contribute his talents to a company that specializes in distributing healthy foods. I believe that everyone has been given a unique set of gifts, talents and abilities and that our “job” is to discover that set of gifts so that we can make our unique contribution to the world and be well-paid. Everything I do is aligned with that philosophy. So, what is yours?

When you are able contribute your gifts and talents to support what matters to you, work becomes fulfilling and you will be unstoppable.

Demotions are good

Demotions are good.

Yes, you read that right. Demotions are good. Or, can be.

I know, you think of a demotion as a terrible thing. Your company has decided to drop you back instead of promoting you. It’s worse than being held back a grade at school. This is your career, your paycheck, your life, your identity.

Getting a demotion is humiliating.
Getting a demotion is demoralizing.
Getting a demotion is painful. How could the company not recognize your talent?
Getting a demotion is…a gift. Say what?

Yes, that’s right. Getting a demotion can be a gift. Hear me out…

A couple of months ago, a woman contacted me through my YouAreFree.com website. This is what she wrote:

"I need your help… More specifically, I currently have a great job (aka it pays well) but I’m not truly happy. I work for Mercedes-Benz ** and the company is currently downsizing. I’ll know soon if I still have a job. I feel it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate my situation, strengths, dreams and really get excited about what’s ahead whether it’s Mercedes-Benz (in a different role) or something else."

** I changed the name of the company to protect her identity.

She and I discussed how the company’s uncertainty provided her with the impetus to think differently about her work. She had been at the company for a long time, in a very senior position, collecting fabulous benefits, and while she wasn’t happy, how could she leave? She was trapped by her “golden handcuffs.”

Then, when the company started downsizing and she realized that she might be vulnerable, she began to think about doing something different. It took the possibility of losing her job to get her to take action. I encouraged her to use this opportunity as a chance to figure out what she really wanted to do long-term, no matter what the decision of the company.

A couple of weeks later, she wrote this:

"I was offered a demotion. I’m disappointed but I’m grateful to have options. I’ve accepted the demotion but I plan to look and see what else is available on the outside. Since we have been going through significant downsizing three years in a row, I feel I need to find someplace where my career is more in my control. Right now, I am going to concentrate on getting a different job. Later, I’ll think about making a more significant career change."

(Oh no, she chose an option but didn’t see the gift. She’ll use the demotion as a jumping off point to get another “job” without using this opportunity to figure out what she really wants to do long-term. I’ll tell you what I would have done later…)

Think this through for yourself. Pretend that the woman in this story is you. You haven’t been happy and dream about doing something different, something that will make you happy and engage your talents and gifts. Your company is repeatedly downsizing, leaving you feeling uncertain about your future. You receive word that the company wants to retain you (Yea! You still have a paycheck!) but has offered you a demotion, a step down in responsibilities and pay (which feels really bad internally). What would you do?

Would you see it as a slap in the face? An affront? A humiliation? Something demoralizing and embarrassing? Or would you see it as a gift?

How would you respond? What would you do? You could turn the offer down. You could ask for a termination package. You could quit on the spot. You could do what this woman decided to do; accept the demotion gracefully, and use your time to look for another job. You could accept the demotion and stay with the company indefinitely. Or, you could use the demotion as a way to fund your efforts to find the job of your dreams. In that way…

A demotion is a gift.

Of course, if you were planning to have a life-time career with your company, and you are given a demotion, then it would be a devastating experience. But, if you truly desired to find work that excites you, work that engages your strengths, talents and moves you in the direction of your dreams, getting demoted would be a gift. Your demotion could buy you time to find the work of your dreams.

A demotion lets you take control.

Remember…you may not be in control of your work, but you are ALWAYS in control of how you choose to engage with your work. You can choose to give 110% of yourself to your job, working long hours, weekends, pouring your heart and soul into your work, looking for ways to improve things, make your mark, make a difference, and professionally giving your all. Or, you can simply show up, do your work, use your skills, perform your tasks, and go home. It’s up to you.

A demotion gives you implicit permission to emotionally disengage from your job.

When you have been demoted, it becomes much easier to come to work, do your job, and go home at a reasonable hour. Leave your work at the door. Forget trying to give it your all. Forget going over and above. Don’t try to make things better. Withdraw your emotional and creative energy from the company and instead use it to create the work of your dreams. Invest that energy in your future. Figure out who you are, -- your strengths, talents and abilities and how to use those to make the contribution of which you are capable. Discover what you have to offer the marketplace and who would appreciate what you have to give.

I’m not suggesting trying to screw your company or do a bad job. No. Do your job. Do it well. Use the skills for which you are getting paid to do your work. Perform your tasks and meet your responsibilities. But, that’s all. Don’t give anything more. Stop going over and above. You’re not getting paid for that. And, the company has signaled to you that they don’t really value your contribution. So, why do it?

A demotion buys you time.

It supports you financially. It pays the bills while you figure out the next step. Think of your demotion as having a paid “gig” while you look for a real job. The company has done you a favor. A demotion keeps you from having to create financial anchors while you are in a transition.

A demotion can be the best thing that happens to you…if you choose to see it that way.

(PS. Here’s what I would have done in that situation described earlier. I would have used the demotion as an opportunity to find what I really wanted to do long-term. Her strategy – to look for another job and “later” think about her ideal work – will delay her in pursuing the work of her dreams. She will invest all of her energy in finding a new job, which in turn will require a lot of energy to get situated or successfully “on-boarded.” It takes time to learn how to navigate a new company, -- how things are done, the spheres of influence, the interpersonal relationships, the processes, the people, the product. Everything is new. And, in three years, she’ll still be no closer to finding what she really wants to do. Why not use the demotion as an opportunity to figure out her dream job…right now? What an opportunity! What a gift!)