Jan 31 2010

Defining What Matters: What Are Your Words?

Published by kim at 9:42 pm under career fulfillment

True confession: it’s been way too long since I thought about the next phase of my career, which is sort of what happens when you join a start-up. The particular start-up in question is Disaboom.com, for which I worked until recently as Vice President of Content and Strategy. (Through a very positive mutual understanding, I was allowed to return to consulting status for Disaboom, and they are now one of the clients for Dority & Associates, Inc., my consulting company.)

Like other start-ups, Disaboom had consumed my life, my time, and all of my energy – but for a cause well worth the candle. Disaboom’s goal has been to create content, information resources, employment opportunities, and an online community that help people with disabilities live lives of maximum independence and opportunity. On a good day that’s exactly what we’ve done, on a less-than-good day we’d give it everything we had and then hope the payoff came in the future.

Is This What I Want?
But because the job had consumed so much of my life, it had gotten me thinking recently about whether or not my role at Disaboom actually aligned with what I wanted from my career.

I decided to see if I could define what I wanted my career to be about, and what I wanted to derive from it. I wasn’t looking for a lengthy or detailed mission or vision statement, but something brief and simple. After considering a number of words/descriptions, I realized there were three that mattered most to me: Impact, Independence, and Laughter.

Impact. My goal has been to have the work that I do make a positive difference in people’s lives. As an information professional, I have the ability to find, aggregate, synthesize, and organize information – skills that provide unique opportunities to create resources that can help others improve their lives.

Think of the impact a dynamic public library can have on the community around it, then consider the impact a single information professional can have on the lives around him or her. Information changes live; info pros can be the world’s greatest change agents. That’s impact.

Independence. For me, there is no freedom quite like that of being able to choose the work that you do, and how you do it. This is one of the great gifts of the library and information science profession – there are so many ways to deploy (and get paid for) your skills, that your options are limited only by your imagination and ambition.

Yep, you may need to invest in additional education, you may need to build your networking expertise, you may need to expand your opportunities through volunteering, speaking, writing, or otherwise “getting visible,” but the payoff is your freedom to choose your path, and your income.

Laughter. One of my favorite quotes is “Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.” So true!  Being able to laugh at myself helps me take my work seriously, but myself not at all.

I value those who make me laugh, and relish the opportunity to make others laugh as well. Life is serious, being a professional is serious, our personal responsibilities are serious. But being able to lighten the load for ourselves or others provides all of us the energy we need to continue to fight the good fight. In a career, it can keep you focused on the things that count, and give you the release to ignore those that don’t.

What Are Your Words?
When I asked a very successful friend what words she would choose, she chose Impact, Laughter (she writes a very funny career column), and Connection. The joy in her career comes from collaborating with others, adding her considerable skills to those of colleagues to create something wonderful and unique. Another friend identified Security, Learning, and Friendship as her career drivers – she thrives in a stable environment that provides opportunities to learn and colleagues with whom to share stories and lives.

What words describe the values or goals that mean the most to you?

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