Why Your Career is More Important Than Your Job Title
Some people work each day with the sole goal of making a living, never questioning why they do what they do. That’s not me. Not even close. I always thought my career should be a lifestyle, not just a job.
When I graduated university, I dove into a fast moving job doing what I love at Catalystica. About a year and a half later, our two-person team hit pause to make sure we were still working towards our long-term goals. Interestingly enough, somewhere along the way we had both strayed from what we really wanted.
As a struggling perfectionist, I find it hard to draw boundaries between work and rest - especially when my work can be done anytime, anywhere. I quickly started to realize that even though I was doing what I loved, I stopped working on myself. If you are someone who thinks work is just work, you probably think I sound insane.
It took three months of sleepless nights and coffee meetings to figure out what I should do next. I realized that finding my next job title wasn’t nearly as important as remembering to invest time and energy in myself and my career, even amongst the chaos.
My biggest realization? Your career is so much more important than your job title - and here’s why.
You Don’t Own What You Do at Work
In university, your professors tell you that you need work experience to build your portfolio. What they probably didn’t tell you is that employers also expect you to be a thought leader outside of the office.
When I finished at Catalystica, I thought it would be easy to just send employers to our website, share a few designs and blogs, and call it a day. What I didn’t realize is that employers care just as much, if not more, about the work you do outside of the office. Why? Because nobody told you what to do or how to do it - and it's 100% yours.
Think about it... By creating your own website or blog, you show employers that you know how to create a logo, build a website, take photos, write engaging material and stay on top of your craft. Sharing your thoughts and knowledge in your own words paints a better picture of what you know - and it shows that you really do love what you do.
You Are Responsible for Continuously Educating Yourself
If you thought you were done learning when you got your degree, you thought wrong. The second you stop educating yourself and looking at what’s ahead, you will fall behind. If you are lucky, your employer will send you to workshops and conferences. If they don’t, it’s still your responsibility to stay on top of your craft.
Because I am a perfectionist, I am guilty of getting wrapped up in to-do lists. Working hard is great, but getting so wrapped up that you forget to learn something new isn't. I guarantee that your boss won’t be upset if you spend a bit of time each week reading industry blogs or watching how-to videos on YouTube. You have to make time.
Learning happens in unconventional ways too. Always make time to connect with other people in your industry and learn from them. Better yet, volunteer or join a committee. Learning from people out of the office will give you a fresh perspective.
remember that everything you do is just a piece of the puzzle
One tough lesson I learned is that every job, volunteer opportunity, and interview is just a piece of the puzzle. I used to see something coming to an end as a failure. It's important to remember that your time is valuable and it's okay to move on to something new when the time is right. If you only look at your to-do list in front of you and forget to look at what's next, it can be easy to lose your identity within the big picture.
This applies to your job search too - don’t just focus on your previous experience. I updated my cover letter by adding the first three things I would do if I was hired. Setting a game plan shows that you are ready to hit the ground running and have thought about what the job looks like beyond the interview process. It quickly proves that you are willing to take charge and work with little direction, which is invaluable.
Your Personal Brand is the Only Thing You Own
Work can consume so much of your energy that working on your personal brand after a 40 hour week can seem impossible. That being said, I promise it’s worth it. If your personal brand would be lost if you were fired tomorrow, you have work to do.
I often felt guilty for spending time on my personal social media profiles because I could have been spending more time on work-related accounts. I’ve now realized that it's all about balance. Employers want you to have a presence on social media and some would actually encourage you to send out a tweet when you are attending an event or post on Instagram to share what you are up to at work. If your community is large enough, your employer may even want to leverage your network.
Launching Coffee and Carry-On helped me see my personal brand as a business. I started using it as an opportunity to train myself to use new tools and try new strategies. It’s the perfect place to do so because working on your own brand is risk free. It's also the one piece that I know I will always have regardless of where I'm working.
Do you think your career is more important than your job title?