Monday, August 12, 2019

Sustaining a Career

Today is my birthday, and I took the day off from work. Naturally, I feel naked and confused without using a computer, so I started a birthday fundraiser on Facebook for the Cleveland Restoration Society, and then I had to jump online to write this post. Now with the salutations out of the way, I will jump forward to why I am writing to you.

Last week, someone posted on a historic preservation professionals group about what burns people out or any tips-or-tricks to staying motivated and engaged. My automatic response was, "focus on what I love--learning." Since posting my automatic reply, I have wondered why I led with that answer? I could have chosen to talk about what burns me out, but rather I focused on what gets me up and helps me stay focused when I sit at a computer researching and writing, sometimes more than 14 hours, every day. What I also started to think about something that I have wondered about in-depth for quite a while--how do you stay motived in a preservation career?

Sometimes when we start a career we are so focused on 'getting that job' that we lack perspective on how to keep, nurture, and grow ourselves. In no specific order, this is how I have shaped my career while also staying grounded over the last decade:

  • Think long term
    • Set goals for whatever job or volunteer opportunity you have both short and long term. You don't have to be the President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to have value or participate in implementing preservation policy. In fact, you may actually be more impactful than such individuals. Give yourself at least five achievable goals each week and either mark them off or revise them for the next week.
  • Define you
    • Grow your own understanding of what you do want with your career and life. Journal or simply just think about it while sipping coffee. What do you like most about your days? What would you like to change? For example, I thought I wanted to be someone who worked in business development, but then I realized that I don't enjoy the required client face time that is necessary to succeed in that job. I really enjoy research and writing the most in solitude. This, of course, can change, but this is what makes me happy now.
  • Make allies
    • Networking is what they say, but so many people do it wrong. Don't approach someone who you think can give you something (i.e. their contacts, a job, etc.). Approaching someone with an intention to learn, engage, support, foster, help, or advocate is best. You can say, "I really learned a lot from that blog you posted," or, "I am interested to help  your volunteer group because I share your passion." There are so many people wanting important folks time that why would they give you something. The world doesn't owe you anything. Also, you are an important person, too. So, why come on a bended knee. Instead, focus on getting to know people--for real--and then step up when you are needed. An allied front is better than some quid-pro-quo exchange in the long term, and the long term is the game. 
  • Time and hard work is required
    • I've been on both sides of this argument; "Millennials expect to be the boss right out of college," or, "Since I have an advanced degree and work experience, I am qualified for leadership because I have the skills and character to do a great job." Look, let us look this in the eye, and face this straight on. If you are under 40, regardless of your qualifications, more saged professionals want you to ask them questions, and they want you to engage with their wisdom. Maybe you do have what it takes or the right answer, but you are going to have to come at it from a different angle. After all, they were already you in their careers. Again, think long term, define you, and make allies. 
  • You do you
    • Preservation is about improving consumption habits in humans that developed over centuries. That, one, passion project you, may have, had success on doesn't change the big picture. You also shouldn't be viewing your success against preservation globally. Ten years ago, I was a hot-headed, opinionated, utopianist. I had a now or never attitude, and if I continued with such fervor I would have burnt out. I backed up, went back to the drawing board, and focused on the most important part of the equation--my happiness. I am nowhere near where I thought I would be in  'a' career, but I am farther along in my career than I could have imagined a decade ago. 

No comments:

Post a Comment