How to break free of the career blueprint
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Ever wondered to yourself: What am I doing for work and why? How did I get here? What’s next for me? Are you creating a legacy or an impact greater than the hours you have clocked in?
If not, it may be time to rewire, reset, and restart your roadmap. Each of us is born with a blueprint that outlines the steps one must take to find their version of success. The problem occurs once you have taken all of those steps and are still not content with the results you have achieved. Or worse, you have taken all those steps and have not found the career acceleration and satisfaction you had imagined.
In order to successfully reach your professional pinnacle, you must take charge of your life and ensure that you are writing your story as opposed to having your story written for you. You must have mobility, equitable compensation, differentiated skills that align with your job responsibilities, passion to have an impact, and a lack of fear when negotiating or considering alternative options.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics showcased the alarming behavioral data of Americans: more than 47,000,000 Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021. That is more than ever recorded in any previous year. We are now beginning to see that the blueprint has flaws, and those flaws are breaking the blueprint.
With that in mind, the following is an adapted excerpt from my book, The Restart Roadmap: Rewire and Reset Your Career (HarperCollins Leadership).
Think back to when you were growing up. What were the expectations you heard around the dinner table? Did your parents influence your thoughts on what you should “be” or do when you grew up? Did they help “direct” your education toward a specific career? What about friends? Teachers? Coaches? Did they make suggestions, offer opinions, turn you away from some of your thinking, or turn you toward another way of thinking? Are you in
the career you’re in because of what you decided to major in college when you were eighteen? Or because you are replicating the path you saw a family member or friend follow? What were the small influences that brought you step by step to where you are now, what you do, and why you feel stuck? Maybe you never needed to hear from or be influenced by others.
Maybe, like me, you just always “knew.” I think for me I always “knew” because I never found a reason to think outside what seemed obvious. As I mentioned, going into a business in corporate America was pretty standard for the time and place in which I grew up. I really wasn’t terribly aware of other options, and I certainly wasn’t sure how to pursue anything else. I think most of this comes with time, but if you could solve this hack and zoom out earlier, the awareness of options that it brings can become a massive superpower.
Did you ever know anybody who did break the blueprint? I’m thinking of the kid in my neighborhood who knew from the time he was little that he wanted to grow up to be a part of Broadway theater—the Great White Way—even though he sometimes got bullied or picked on by other kids for expressing that dream, which looked so out of sync with the blueprint that had the rest of us hooked. The kid I’m talking about was always tops academically but maybe an outcast to the “cool” kids. He was the kid who challenged the system and carried the dream with him right to the real thing, leaving the small town to go the big city for college, then from college to a job right where he wanted to be, and then from the job to becoming owner of a company that does the marketing for virtually every well-known Broadway show.
Maybe you had a friend or an acquaintance like that, and maybe you questioned what they were doing and wondered how they could be so sure about something that seemed so “off the charts” to everyone else. For me, that “kid” was my brother. I watched him step by step, year by year, as he went on to lead the life he always dreamed of. From a distance I saw his successes and failures, gains and losses—student council leadership among the highs, bullies making fun of him among the indignities. But I was there when he landed the high school lead as Prince Charming in Cinderella, and I was there when he escorted us backstage at Hamilton, the hottest ticket on Broadway, where he introduced us to the cast, clearly friends and admirers of my big brother. I saw it right in front of my face and almost still couldn’t believe it, but I sure did feel proud to be his bro.
People like my brother are the exceptions, I think. And I envy them for finding their dream early and for pursuing it. But I think the truth is that the rest of us have just sleepwalked our way into careers that no longer bring us satisfaction—if they ever did. That’s why it’s time to wake up, analyze and define the blueprint that got you where you are today, break it, and think anew—with a definition of success that you alone create.
If, like me, you always looked at success in terms of the title, the financial package, the promotions, you already know that’s not enough. It’s time instead to look at success in terms of what it means to you personally—that is, how you want to live your life. In my case, I never laid my cards out on the table about what I wanted my life to be. The result? I was successful within the confines of the office; when I got home at night, my life was a disaster.
I was alone, I had not particularly enjoyed the day at the office, and I was not especially proud of the work I did. How does this add up to success?
The question is simple: What is your definition of success for you, on your terms? The time to answer it is now, with this warning: do not present your answer in silos. I’m not asking for a definition of professional success and another for personal success. I’m asking for one answer that correlates the two. That’s what is essential in order to restart your career. And of course, nobody can answer the question for you.
Once you have answered the question, it changes everything. The answer becomes your tool for snapping out of the near hypnosis in which the blueprint has held you. You’re back in charge of yourself, no longer swayed by the suggestions or advice of others. Once you have broken the blueprint, you’ll be in a position to correlate your definition of success as your life mission—your main source of energy for prescribing what comes next in terms of job, career, and lifestyle. The next step is to align that definition to the external strategy we’re about to build, the strategy that will get you to your restart.
But to make it work, you’re going to have to get vulnerable.
Taken from The Restart Roadmap: Rewire and Reset Your Career by Jason Tartick. Copyright © 2022 by Jason Tartick. Used by permission of HarperCollins Leadership. www.harpercollinsleadership.com.