I've been reflecting lately on my working life and the choices I've made - or not made - along the way. As I reflect back on my life's work to date I can begin to see patterns. There's been a theme of helping others that has been present. There's also been a theme of continuing to learn and develop. I've never stayed in jobs for too long. Project work and short term contracts have been more appealing to me than long term commitments. I enjoy the energy that comes with projects, beginning with the excitement of getting the work, then the initial planning as well as working towards deadlines. I love deadlines. They keep me focused and connected to the work.
There's also a theme of working in ways that fit into my life. While I've always tried to work in jobs that are meaningful to me I've also built the work around the rest of my life, particular parenting responsibilities. I turned down jobs or didn't seek out promotions or new work at times because I prioritised my time with my kids. Being there seemed most important at that time and I was prepared to prioritise that over money or career advancement.
I've applied for jobs that were out of my reach. Sometimes I've known that but tested myself anyway realising at the interview or when I didn't get an interview that the job wasn't right for me. I've been tempted at times to return to jobs that are comfortable and safe, that I know I can do. Mostly though I've tried to keep progressing my career, propelling myself forward, building on previous learning and looking forward towards new opportunities.
I've been reading lately about career pathways and trajectories and finding that most people experience times of disorientation or uncertainty. Most people experience some let downs or times when things didn't work out. Sometimes looking back missing out was clearly a godsend, as new and better opportunities arose later on. Being open to possibility and seeking out opportunities, striving for and looking for those open doors, seems to be a critical way to remain engaged in your work life trajectory. We never know what door might open next. We have to have our eyes open in order to notice it.
I've been thinking about the future too and what it would mean to reach the end of a career and feel that it had been a work life worth living. I've been thinking about what that would look like. Is it important to be a good employee? Reliable and trustworthy, hard working and loyal. Or is it more about our own internal sense of accomplishment, of having achieved what we set out to achieve? Is it being well respected by peers, our input valued and acknowledged? Does it matter if there's no public recognition? i think it's more about our work having meaning for ourselves, kept our soul dancing and mind active. Oh - and paid the bills along the way.