We live life at the speed of an Instagram photo. And by this point, it’s no secret that the glamorous lifestyles of others on social media is eroding our self-confidence and undermining our mental health.
Feelings of ‘being a failure’ are everywhere, and they are particularly common in the Millennial new grads and young professionals I mentor. They may yearn for a career that is empowering, impactful and which expresses their greatness – but they don’t believe it could be a reality for them.
Often, the answer comes down to one or other – or a combination – of the following five myths:
1. You have to follow an already-established path
There can be a lot of anxiety, whether acknowledged or not, about stepping away from a traditional, tried-and-tested path. Having worked as a corporate trainer in the Gulf as well as my home country, I have seen first-hand how culture and society can steer its young people towards what are thought to be ‘safe’ career directions. Finance, Accounting, Law, Medicine, Engineering and so on.
And there is nothing wrong with pursuing an established professional path… as long as it is aligned with your own unique skill-sets, life goals and potential – your blueprint. For some, a conventional career with many clearly-expected milestones will be appropriate. For others, an off-the-beaten-track professional life is better suited.
However, what makes the above statement a myth, is the phrase “You have to”. No, as it happens you don’t have to.
Maybe you should if you do authentically derive satisfaction in following a well-established career course. But you definitely don’t have to, to enjoy a great career.
We live in an ever-more entrepreneurial world. Education for every age group is rapidly evolving in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the rise of multidisciplinary learning. There is more freedom than ever to acquire skills as you need, reach and grow new professional networks and harness digital tools to create new products, tap fresh markets and serve diverse customers.
What you should commit to (if you want to enjoy career greatness), is a clear set of professional PRIORITIES – such as for your career to be: innovative, purpose-driven, giving back to society, creative – and so on – instead of to a path with fixed milestones.
Once you achieve clarity on your career priorities, you can choose to take a conventional or unconventional route towards them, according to the pace of your own development and self-awareness.
2. You have to be earning lots of money
We like to measure things, don’t we? After all, if we can measure something, how do we track its evolution? How do we gauge and compare its performance? How do we make a decision whether it’s a good thing, a bad thing, or a useful thing – a rare or valuable thing or a liability?
In short we like data that gives us a before and after. Hard to argue with figures, right? Except, figures rarely tell us about what obstacles had to be overcome, what mountains were climbed, what oppositions had to be faced.
Someone’s bank account can be tiny compared to someone else’s… but what does that say about the first person’s investment in their education, their values, their creativity and talent?
It says absolutely nothing. And if you are unwilling to pursue career greatness because you don’t feel you have it in you to produce great wealth, think again.
Not that there’s anything wrong with making a lot of money or having an impressive bank account… It’s just that career greatness is actually about YOU expressing your UNIQUE potential, irrespective of how much cash it rewards you with.
In other words, career greatness is achieved when your work lets you demonstrate and apply your special aptitudes, interests and gifts, to offer the MAXIMUM possible value.
If you can do that, chances are good the money will follow.
3. External gurus have the answers
Thanks to digital media and online publishing, we are in a kind of golden age when it comes to influencers reaching audiences and thought leaders shaping trends.
The tsunami of podcasts, books and courses shows no signs of finally crashing. Instead, many young professionals feel pressed to seek guidance from one external source to the next, eventually getting mentally, spiritually and very often physically, burned out.
Now, I am not against the idea of seeking the knowledge and support of a guide – after all, I’m a dedicated mentor myself, and I have witnessed how one-on-one work helps my mentees unlock their potential.
But my goal is to make myself unnecessary. To help you finally set aside your fears, conditioning, insecurities and limiting beliefs, so that you can go on to claim your greatness – not just in your career, but holistically, at every level of your life.
A great career (like a great life) comes from you having the clarity about who you are (your gifts, your priorities, your values, what you love, what you hope to build and leave behind). While I can certainly help you get that clarity, it’s up to you to let it guide you, and to trust the inner voice of your own instincts.
4. You have to compromise your values
Actually, it’s just the opposite.
Your values – knowing what they are and integrating them into every decision, career move and professional initiative – will bring you closer to your career success.
And anyone who tries to convince you that you cannot afford values or personal beliefs if you want professional success does not have your best interests at heart.
Called me old-fashioned, but there is no point in achieving wealth and influence if you have no integrity… If you develop a reputation for saying (and doing) anything provided it is to your advantage.
I’m all for setting yourself challenges that will get you out of your comfort zone and take on goals that are truly ambitious. But the belief that you must compromise or sacrifice your VALUES in the pursuit of career greatness is not only a myth, it is actually self-defeating.
Because you will never achieve career greatness – in my definition that’s the satisfaction of expressing your highest potential through your work – if you are out of alignment with what you hold to be true – your values. Those, like your loved ones’ well-being and your health, must never ever be sacrificed.
5. You need a lifetime to achieve it
This is where it gets interesting. Ideally, career greatness IS a journey – one where you go deeper and deeper into your own potential, and therefore express more and more of it in your professional life, with commensurate accomplishments, influence and rewards.
But if you’re talking about a lifetime, does that mean you only achieve career greatness when you’re on your deathbed and about to leave this earth?
Clearly, not – otherwise people like Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s thirty-something CEO would not qualify as having reached such greatness.
And yes, he’s a maverick, but if you do a little digging, examples of successful younger people are all around us.
So, the idea that professional accomplishment requires a lifetime is not just a myth… it is simply not useful one way or another. Especially as everyone’s timeline towards career greatness will evolve according to their specific levels of self-awareness and self-development.
Therefore, if you’re trying to identify how age and time factor into career greatness, it’s far better to say career greatness grows and evolves as you do, and that every day offers you a new opportunity to express your highest potential through your work and how you offer value to others.
To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of services at my website, www.leonidasalexandrou.com