People over profit is a highly touted slogan that champions social enterprise ideology. It’s an aspirational one to follow, and one I have internalized very deeply. But today I wanted to talk about more than business models, I wanted to talk about future planning and ‘career aspirations’.
You see, I view career aspirations much more abstractly than job titles and companies. When someone asks me what my next steps are, or what I want to do when I graduate I begin to describe how I want to feel in my dream job; I want to be working for a company whose values align with my own, to be challenged every day, and to be working toward efficient, effective, and sustainable social impact. “This leaves me with a pretty wide scope, but a very intentional direction”, I usually add. Of course, this conversation of course only happens if you aren’t a family member, in which case I would have already reminded you that “after graduation” questions are strictly prohibited.
Just this week I have been inspired by words I have heard from completely different places. First, I was inspired by Ashon Mckenzie of The Children’s Defense Fund Ohio at our Fellows meeting last week. “People do not pay you for time, they pay you for value”, he said. When I heard him say this, my feeling of constantly trying to contribute, maximize efficiency, and be a value-add to every team I am on was reassured. Of course, my actions were only subconsciously motivated, my initiative-taking was not an intentional act of industriousness but an impulse desire to analyze and act. This speaks greatly to most of the work I do now while I am still at Ohio State (and hopefully to some salaried positions in my future), but the fear of time rather than growth ruling as a metric in hourly positions is still frustrating to imagine.
Then, while listening to a podcast on the way to work, creator of Vidcon, internet personality, and now author, Hank Green, said that when thinking about the tenure of your professional life, you should view your long-term progress as “working not for capital gain, but to improve yourself”. He went on to give examples of the infinite number of skills that one person could not possibly know at any given time, showing the limitless nature of lifelong learning. I see the financial non-priority as a secondary feature of this statement because it really hones in on the “challenge every day” part of my career mantra. It does not say that money is not important, but that it should not be the guiding principle of your career moves; you should not accept a higher paid position doing the exact same thing that you were doing before at another company. There is no growth in this. Though becoming a master of your trade is still important, lifelong career growth is not linear, it is dimensional.
My challenge to you is to reflect on where you are right now. Are you being challenged? What do you value? Are you tied to categories that others created for you or settling for metrics of success defined by those who came before you?