How to Make Responsible Career Decisions (and Why It’s Not What You Think)

Digital tablet computer with sticky note paper and cup of coffeeLet’s talk about responsibility for a minute… especially responsibility as it pertains to our careers, and the decisions we make. Because I believe that advice on what’s responsible or irresponsible gets thrown around a lot, and portrayed as truths rather than the guidelines they really are.

I think the most in-your-face “truth” is that we should never leave our job without another job or source of income lined up; that it’s irresponsible.

I’m not debating that this is good advice or that there are many circumstances where you should seriously consider sticking to it. Maybe you have substantial debt and/or very little savings that cannot sustain you past a few months; or you have a family where others rely on your source of income for their well-being.

But I’d also like to play devil’s advocate and explain why, sometimes, ripping off the Band-Aid might be the right decision if your circumstances allow it. (Because it all boils down to our personal circumstances.)

We are at our best when we are in our element… that place where our passions overlap with our natural strengths. When we are happy, we give off confidence; we give off the positive energy needed to excel in whatever it is that we have put in front of us.

What happens when you feel out of your element? Give it some thought for a minute.

Maybe you start to feel a little complacent or resentful. Or you feel less empowered; your confidence wanes; you start feeling stuck. Whatever it is, you’re not the best version of yourself that you can be.

It’s dangerous when we stop feeling empowered.
Or when we allow ourselves to remain in a situation where we find ourselves becoming more and more stuck and less in our element. Because it becomes even harder to get un-stuck.

Getting stuck happens to all of us at some point. Because life has to test us every now and then. But to me, responsibility means making the decisions we need to best take care of ourselves.

And sometimes that involves change… big, uncertain, scary change.
And sometimes it doesn’t.

We need to assess our own individual comfort levels. How risk adverse are we? Does uncertainty paralyze us or stimulate us? Can we transition from our current employment to something more fitting, or do we need some space in between to explore? And if exploration seems like the appropriate course, have we saved sufficiently for it?

These are all questions that vary from person to person – there is no universal path because what works for one person might not work for another. I’ll share a personal example that I’ll expand upon in future posts. I am currently one month into a year-long sabbatical from work which I embarked upon because I felt stuck and craved the freedom to network, pursue personal creative ventures (such as this blog), and fine-tune my professional expectations and requirements. I spent the prior year saving enough to live comfortably without income for an extended period. Then I thought long and hard about what I planned to achieve, while also giving myself the flexibility to embrace the unforeseen wildcard opportunities that life inevitably would throw me. Of course, it’s scary not having a consistent paycheck while watching my savings wane. And the freedom, while liberating, can at times make it hard to focus when my creative juices pull me in a million directions. But I’m happy with my decision because it was based on my own personal truths: that I do best in unstructured environments, and that I need a bit of uncertainty to propel me to achieve things that otherwise would sit on the back burner.

My truths will be different than your truths, so I urge everyone to find his or her own personal motivators, and to use them – rather than cultural norms – to influence your career decisions.

Go be you. Because it’s the responsible thing to do.

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