Just when I thought there was no refreshing new advice on how to best manage your career – Amy Poehler stepped up to the plate. She covers a plethora of topics in her book “Yes, Please!” but one that jumped out at me was a chapter titled: Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend.
Amy does a great job of making a distinction between your career and your creativity (or passion). Creativity, she says, will always make you feel strong, warm and loved. Career, on the other hand, is in reality “the stringing together of opportunities and jobs – mix in public opinion and past regrets, add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career, takes pleasure in having you think you are in control and then reminds you that you are not.” I immediately started conjuring up a bad boyfriend list in my head and thought – yep, that nails it.
Ambivalence (a word I never thought I’d connect with career) she says is the key to success and helps tame the ambition fueled “beast”. You have to care less. She goes on to say you have to care about the quality of your work but not about basing your self-worth on the results. Care about how good you are and how you feel but not about how good other people think you are or how good they think you look.
It’s true – the more you want something, the more elusive it becomes and all along you feel yourself being compromised by that “bad boyfriend” (or bad girlfriend for the gentlemen out there).
I recently spoke with a couple of colleagues who were evaluating their professional year. They were exhausted and felt like they had given everything but had come up short. I heard them question their abilities and express their desire to give up or give in. They were measuring their value based on a year-end performance appraisal for a job they didn’t particularly like. We all do it. We are all susceptible. But let’s stop it.
Evaluate your job with with 6 key questions
A job – even if it is strategically career-aligned – is not worth making yourself crazy over. When you find yourself in angst about your latest gig, try evaluating the job by asking yourself:
Am I engaged? Do I actually like this job and the work I am doing?
We all deserve to be energized and challenged by our work. We want to feel our talents are being put to good use.
Have I given it my personal best?
Are you proud of the work you’ve done or are you phoning it in? – never good.
Have I asked for help or counsel when needed?
If it ain’t working, you’ve got to ask for help and insight from a trusted colleague. Get a fresh perspective.
Even if the opportunity is not perfect, am I leveraging the learning and relationships in a positive way?
At best, we learn something new with each job and build relationships that we’ll keep forever. That’s a very worthwhile goal.
When I get home at the end of the day, do I still have energy left over to have some fun?
Pay attention if you are coming home tired but feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.
Am I able to see what’s next on the horizon for me?
Is your current position helping to position you for what’s next? Or is this job blurring your future prospects? When we are unhappy we tend to forget how amazing we are – given the right opportunity – and default to thinking nothing else will work out.We’ve all been in bad relationships with the types who don’t call you back, that don’t love you, that continually don’t give anything in return. Amy reminds us that our careers won’t take care of us. “It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. It will blow you off if you call it too much.” So, as you think about your career or your latest job, remember that you are not permanently married to this bad boyfriend. And finally, Amy says, “If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go to sleep with somebody else.”
There you have it. Thanks Amy Poehler for the best career advice I’ve heard in a long time!