It’s time to stop thinking of your career as a baby whose every cry brings you sleepless nights. You pour all your energy into this insatiable baby of a career that can never be satisfied, including putting your dreams on hold. Newsflash! Your career is not a baby but a machine. A machine created by You to serve You.
My career, a machine? No way!
Your career is a machine because it is the vehicle that carries you to fulfill your life purpose. Your career is a machine that helps you make your mark on the world. Think of your career as a rocket ship that will carry you to the moon where you will plant your flag and create a new settlement.
When will your machine be ready?
You’ve spent years of your life preparing this machine. As a woman in hematology, you’ve been preparing this machine for a minimum of 10 years, including medical school, residency, and fellowship. If we go back even further to your years of elementary, middle, high school and college, then we recognize that you’ve been preparing this machine for at least 30 years. Now you’re a new faculty member and you still think you're not ready. You think that it will take many more years to prepare the machine. When will you ever fly? What you have in your machine is a prototype. Yes, it’s not perfect yet. However, it can fly just enough to get you there. It is time to turn this prototype into a lean, mean machine.
Define your machine's purpose
Currently, you’re struggling with a machine that is running your life because you haven’t defined it's purpose. First, define what your machine is: a means of getting you to your destination. Then define what your machine is not: your Lord and Master. Once you are clear that your career is a machine to get you to a specific destination, then your job is to set up the machine to serve you.
Three things your machine can help you accomplish
Your machine helps you accomplish at least three things: 1) achieve your life‘s purpose; 2) establish a network to make this possible, and 3) exceed your financial goals. You came into hematology because you want to make an impact. There are patient issues you want solved and diseases you want cured. You’ve seen significant and dramatic change in your field and you want to be at the forefront of it. However, you also want community around you. You’re not a hermit living in a cave. You want to be surrounded by people who challenge you and help you grow. Finally, you need the money to live a great life and build a legacy for your family and children. You want to send your children to good schools, live in great neighborhoods. And you want to retire when you are ready. Your career is one machine that allows you to do all these things in one.
A machine to serve your life's purpose
Set up the machine to serve your life‘s purpose. You came to make an impact in medicine. You’re struggling to make this impact because everybody around you has a purpose and a plan for you and it doesn’t align with your interests. You really want to care for patients with sickle cell but you've been told that you can only do leukemia and you say OK I’ll do leukemia since that is all that is available. That’s the example of the machine being in charge of you instead of you being in charge of the machine. If serving patients with sickle cell is what will fulfill you, then you should be taking care of patients with sickle cell. If being in the lab and running your own research program is what will fulfill you; but people say there are not enough resources to support you in that goal; then what you need to do is to find a way to the place of your fulfillment. See, building this machine is not going to be easy. However, if you are very clear on how you want to contribute in the world, then your machine needs to help you get there. And if for whatever reason, your machine is not taking you to the place of your life's purpose, it is time to begin to work to fix your machine. Who are the people you need to talk to? What are the opportunities you need to explore? What are the challenges you need to overcome? Start asking these questions and find out how your machine will help you get there. Don’t get buried in other peoples priorities while you go unfulfilled and your machine is not serving you.
A machine to help you build community
Your career is a machine to help you establish a community that supports your life goals. No, your career does not take the place of your family or significant relationships. Rather, your career is a vehicle to launch you into all the networks that inspire you, transform you, and help you serve. Your career is a machine to help you create a community of like-minded individuals who challenge you to go to the next level. Your career brings you immense opportunities to meet people who are doing incredible and amazing things so that you are inspired and challenged to be more and to do more. Your career is also a vehicle to meet other people doing interesting things in other fields. Don’t stay stuck in your Division or Department and think that that is all that there is. Your career is a vehicle to launch you into the universe of people all over the world to inspire you to live life to your fullest capacity.
A machine to exceed your financial goals
Your career is a machine to help you achieve and exceed your financial goals. Your journey into hematology took so long that you neglected to maximize your earning potential. You got to the end of your training and discovered a mountain of debt. Not only did you neglect your earning potential and accrue debt, but you also don't have a plan to escape your negative net worth into the stratosphere of financial independence. Yet, your financial independence is dependent on this machine called your career. Currently, you are stuck in a twisted sense of reality - you think your machine is doing you a favor every time it spits up money at you. However, this machine is the key to your financial independence. Unless you plan to work forever or hope to find someone in the universe to finance your retirement, then it is time to make sure that your machine is setting you up for financial freedom. Start asking the questions that will help you tailor your vehicle to work for you financially? Are you making at least the median salary for your specialty? Are you satisfied with your financial situation? How much debt do you have? What is your strategy to get achieve financial independence? At what age do you plan attain financial independence? Work towards it. Don’t let the finances take over your life. Rather, use your career as a vehicle to get you to your financial goals.
There is more
To use your career as a machine that will take you to your destination, there are certain processes that you need to put in place. We'll talk about how to help your career better serve you in a future post.