This time of year, we in the US are celebrating our independence. It’s a big deal, and has become a core part of our national psyche.
In our personal lives, a few of us strive to be truly independent. But most of us really just want to be able to CHOOSE when and where to be dependent on others, to develop the give-and-take of trusting relationships that help us to advance toward our goals and dreams.
So let’s focus on THIS kind of independence, the ability to have freedom of choice.
You can have freedom of choice in your career, even if you work for other people. Here are some ways to become independent:
- Know what you want. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But most of us only have the vaguest idea of what we want to achieve in our career – something about “make enough money to live on.” But that amount can vary wildly depending on your particular lifestyle, something you have some control over. And many people reach the end of their career, making money month after month, and are dissatisfied because it all felt so pointless. So it’s well worth your time and energy to develop a sense of what you’d like to achieve, what you’d like to contribute to the planet while you’re here.
- Create some goals. If you’re going to be independent, that means that you aren’t relying on others to set goals for you. You have to do it yourself. If you want to advance to be a leader in your field or a manager at a company, then declare that as your goal. Write it down, and look at it every day. That clarity will help you to have the energy and creativity to take steps toward the goal.
- Figure out what you need to change. If you haven’t already achieved your goal, then that means something needs to change between where you are now and where you want to be. Before you start taking steps, though, figure out what needs to change. And not just the technical knowledge you need to learn, but also how YOU have to change your behaviors. The CEO of a company has to think differently than the individual worker, and will know and do different things.
- Create some concrete action steps. Nothing’s going to change until you take action. So apply some thought to what actions are going to result in the changes you want, and what order makes sense. When circumstances change, adjust your plans to take advantage of the new opportunities. But start taking action.
Up to now, this is mostly just describing the steps to advancing in your career. But there are more elements that are important if you want to give yourself freedom to choose.
- Save up a nest egg. I realize that this is tough in the current economy, but it’s true that having some savings gives you the flexibility to make courageous choices. If you’re just two paychecks away from losing the roof over your head, then you’ll be forced to take the first job opportunity that comes along, even if it does nothing for your goals. Can you imagine saving just $1 from the next paycheck, $2 from the next one, $3 from the one after that, and so on? If so, get started. It WILL make a difference.
- Learn more than you need to. If you just learn how to do your job, then you’ll just be qualified to do your job. If you learn more, then you’ll have the opportunity to go after promotions and job changes. You’ll be able to look for chances to advance, not just survive.
- Develop more relationships than required. Most opportunities come from relationships, not from job boards. The more people you know, the more chances you’ll have to learn, to grow, to find jobs, even create new sources of income. You’ve heard that “it’s about who you know” and “it’s about who knows you?” Absolutely true. Start building those relationships with the people who should know you.
- Start a company. I’m absolutely serious. Even if it’s not a venture that will turn into a sustainable company, you’ll learn an amazing amount just by figuring out how things work. I published a book back in 2003, and as a result formed my own company so that I would have a way to collect sales tax and pass that on to the government. It’ll never be a significant source of income for me, but the value was in figuring out how to create and act as a company. Forming my second company was MUCH easier.
Now you’re on your way to true freedom of choice, the kind of independence that gives you the ability to do what you want in your career.
And the only revolution that needs to take place is within yourself.