How to Create a Fulfilling Career

November 7th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

How to create a fulfilling career has been one of my most requested topics lately.  Career development is such a rich and complex subject, however, that I can’t do it justice with a single article.  Consequently, I’ve decided to devote a new series of articles to it.

Over the next several days, I’ll be writing specifically on the subject of career, especially on how to choose and transition to the right career for you.  I haven’t decided in advance how long this series will be, but I’ll write whatever it takes to cover the topic thoroughly.  I’m going to try to keep the articles in this series shorter than usual, so it’s easier for you to pinpoint the specific subtopics that are relevant to you.

Here are my goals for this series:

  • to deepen your understanding of the role of your career in your life
  • to paint a picture of what a fulfilling career looks like, and to help you assess your current career in that light
  • to help you identify the right field and type of work for you
  • to encourage you not to settle for a career that isn’t deeply fulfilling
  • to balance practical issues like income, job satisfaction, and your personal qualifications
  • to help you navigate the transition to a new career if that is something you want to do
  • to offer some career development tips to assist you in your ongoing professional growth

Do you find, build, or create a career?

As the title of this article suggests, a fulfilling career is something you create.  It isn’t something you just find, since the word “find” implies a passive role on your part, as if your ideal career is already out there somewhere, and you simply need to locate it.  You can find a job, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that you can find a fulfilling career… unless perhaps you get really lucky.

Similarly, I wouldn’t use the phrase “build a career,” since to me that implies that you’ll follow an established blueprint and knock out a career via some sort of cookie cutter manufacturing process.  While professional growth is a key part of any meaningful career, your career is uniquely your own, and the construction process will be very personal.

I prefer the word “create” because the development of a truly fulfilling career is a highly creative endeavor, and you are the ultimate creator.  Cultivating a good career is like creating the Mona Lisa.  The right tools and strategies will only get you partway there — the soul of the artist is necessary to create something worthwhile.

A career that’s uniquely you

When you succeed in creating a fulfilling career, it will be uniquely you.  Your career will absolutely ooze with your own creative self-expression.  It may take the external form of a job, a business, a web site, volunteer work, or some other entity, but it will never be generic because you are not a generic person.  The right career will be so ridiculously you that if you thought about replacing yourself with someone else, it just wouldn’t make sense.

Consider the career path of the Three Stooges.  You couldn’t just substitute some random actors for the roles of Moe, Larry, and Curly and have it turn out basically the same.  No one can be Moe, Larry, and Curly except Moe, Larry, and Curly.  If you sub in a different actor, you get something entirely new that ideally reflects that person’s own unique creative expression.  While some people didn’t like Shemp (Moe and Curly’s brother who joined the trio after Curly suffered a stroke), personally I thought he was very funny and talented because he expressed himself uniquely and didn’t try to be a Curly stand-in.  Some fans even liked Shemp better.  When the trio later resorted to Curly look-alikes such as Joe DeRita, it didn’t quite work.  Ultimately there’s only one person who could fill the role of Curly, and everyone else who tried to be Curly ultimately came up short.

You are the star of your own career path.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to copy someone else’s path.  Learn to tap into your inner Curly and express that which is uniquely you.  You can’t follow in another person’s footsteps, and no one else will be able to follow in yours.

If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend you listen to Podcast #20: Creative Self-Expression in the audio section, since this will give you a good overview of what a fulfilling career actually looks like.

There’s plenty more to come, so please stay tuned.


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