Last night, K and I had the honor of presenting to the University of Southern California (USC) Reach Club on campus. It was an intimate setting, with students representing all years of the school. Most strikingly, the group represented an extremely diverse background of majors and interests – social media, philanthropy, data science, theater and even government. Overall, a pretty good snapshot of the student population mix at the school. Looking around at them, we knew their interests were going to offer a foundation for some juicy discussion.
K learned about the club from a visit the group had made to his office, where they had taken a tour the previous month. During the visit they had learned about the digital media space, and wanting to take the conversation that day towards career and learnings had unfortunately run out of time. They asked K to come speak at the school to their group to continue the talk. Being interested in doing so, he also suggested more bang for their buck by inviting me to present with him – a dynamic duo of career savviness – so to speak. After learning about my long career in the world of “career”, along with already having immense respect for K’s wise wisdom, they said yes!
Over the next week, as we decided what we were going to talk about and began prepping, we became uber-excited. This was going to be the first time that we had ever presented together. This may come as a shock to many people who know us. Each of us have given countless presentations via our corporate and volunteer worlds, and we oftentimes find ourselves tag-teaming and parting wisdom on a more personal basis to friends or group of friends in our kitchen or living room. Even we recognize the effortless way in which we bounce our words and thoughts off of one another to whomever might be listening. Doing so synchronistically, too, as if we are two halves of the same whole.
Over the past four years or so, we have been there for many of our friends. It could be their facing of a dilemma, or weighing the pros and cons of a big decision, or having those moments of just needing to talk through this thing we all experience called life. In all scenarios, we’ve found many of them want to know not only what we think, but really, what we’ve learned from our own journeys. We’ve both been fortunate to live full-flavored lives. Lives containing many unexpected spices. And, yes, sometimes we added in the wrong ingredients, only to realize afterwards that without these ingredients our stews would be bland and our taste buds would not be as eclectic as they are. We’ve both experienced countless challenges and roadblocks, too. Each of which have provided an opportunity for us to choose to either persevere or to remain stagnate. Spoiler alert, we’ve tended to choose the former of the two.
In our prep discussions, we fondly remembered a board game from the 1960s called “The Game of Life.” For those of you too young to remember it, here’s a gem worth watching:
We gulped back our disbelief in watching the video. We felt nostalgia yes, but we also were distinctly reminded of the so obvious messages surrounding heteronormativity that had been shoved down our throats as consumers of those 1970s commercials. We discussed the idea being thrown out by Milton Bradley’s boardgame – that is the #perfectlife trajectory. Even in 2018, we agree, many people in the Western world ascribe to this ideal, that there is a perfect way to “do life”. And, if you don’t stay on this predetermined and agreed upon path; you not only aren’t a success, well, you also don’t get to “win” at life either.
We call BS.
Did the trajectory of our lives look like this, we asked one another? Hell, no! Aha, we proclaimed – that’s our message! What if we broke down this ideal of #perfectlife and juxtaposed it with #reallife, what message would that send to the students? What if we took it a step further and talked about the big messages we’ve both learned along the way of #reallife, both on the life side, and on the career side. We knew we were onto something and proceeded to build a presentation we were both extremely proud of.
And, so, we had that #realtalk presentation at USC. We Q&A’ed. We shared more, and finally we departed the group leaving them with six key messages to ponder on. We declared, “We are here from the future to share these lessons, after a lifetime of learnings on our parts.” We are not experts on life. That’s for damn sure, but what we’ve learned more than anything is how important it is to create your life. These are just some top-line guidelines that might just help you get there.
I’ll leave these six messages here for you to also consider.
You are responsible for the success of your career.
No one else is responsible. You may have cheerleaders in supervisors and in peers, but unless you are being a squeaky wheel and being vocal about your accomplishments and the value you bring to the company, you’re not moving that needle. Don’t fall into the trap of dependence on someone or something else. Drive your own success. Drive your own career where YOU want it to go.
Once you get hired, you are on the clock to fill five bullet points on your resume.
These bullet points need not be “scopes of responsibility”. No, instead they need to be accomplishments and they need to speak to impact. If you don’t have them, then go get them. Accomplishments will change over time, too. What you accomplished in your work last year, may not be relevant today. So, keep up with your own success and make sure you are clear in how your accomplishments are quantified.
Understand the difference between a job and a career.
Careers have an arc and careers are narratives. They build through phases, growing from one phase to the next. The learning from one chapter informs the growth of the next. Jobs are things you do to fill time and pay bills. It’s OK to have a job. Bills need to get paid and you need to be in motion to find the path of your career. Accept both for what they offer and what they can offer you at the time you find yourself in your life. Careers can be just as multifaceted as life can be. Don’t think just linearly either. Look at the full scope of your industry or function and determine the components of each that you want in your career. Careers change over time. A person can have upwards of 6 – 10 over a lifetime. Don’t get siloed in your vision of what career is and what it can be for you.
Own your actions, emotions and behaviors.
So often we look to external factors or people to connect cause or relation to what WE ARE doing, saying or feeling. If we remove any connection between what we are being bombarded with on the outside of our selves, then we are saying that things can be different than what we expect them to be. We begin to see our roles in life as just roles. And, instead of doing life. We live life.
Everything is possible.
The only thing that inhibits us from doing whatever we’re attracted to do is ourselves. Living in a world where everything is possible actually makes everything possible. Whether relationship, love, family, sex, athletics, community/giving back, knowing what’s important to you is the first step. Aligning your values to those needs is the second.
Are you making concessions in your life for someone or something else? How does that make you feel? Where do you draw the line? Are you even aware that you’re doing it? Similar to living a life where everything is possible. Knowing what your needs are is the key to not settling. By allowing areas in your life and in your relationships to bring you dissatisfaction, you are not advocating for yourself and those needs. To live a fulfilled life is to live a life of not settling. That’s not self-ish. That’s self-care.
The response from these incredibly bright and multifaceted students post the talk was more than we could have hoped for; rich with understanding, awe and a desire to hear more.
Doing the talk also provided some clarity to a project we’ve been wanting to sink our teeth into, too, – a K & J podcast – authentic and real conversations about life and career with guest visits by the people we care about and who care about us. All over wine, no less.
Thank you, USC Reach Club Students!