I peruse LinkedIn fairly often and have recently noticed a particular strain of devil-may- care attitude among career professionals. Maybe it is the palatable effects of the economic recovery, though I am not sure. In any event, I have noticed that many of these wonderfully credentialed citizens are very accomplished, but also very much un-engaged or otherwise not completely bought into the climb up the proverbial corporate ladder. Many of them are asking the same question that I asked myself when I departed for freelance consulting life, “Is this all there is?”
One commenter in particular celebrated her decision to quit her “9 to 5.” The very phrase 9 to 5 evokes many different feelings and thoughts in professional circles, and discussion circles in general. It is a cast off term, one without reverence or specialness – it is exactly the kind of phrase that one uses to communicate the “meh” feeling that accompanies it. Picture this:
Parent: Child, what do you want to do when you grow up?
Child: I want to work a 9 to 5 in corporate America!
Parent: *Blank Stare*
Laugh if you must, but note that this is exactly what we teach our children. We send them through school systems that teach them how to jump through hoops to get good grades and please teachers so that they can look presentable to the hiring manager in hopes of being chosen. That knowledge has its place, but it is not an appropriate fit for a large number of Americans or people in general who have creativity and greatness in their souls. I do not need a study to confirm for me what I see everyday on LinkedIn and in real life. Novel thought: Choose yourself and do not wait for others to validate your value. I made the following comment in response to the commenter who was celebrating her foray into choosing herself. She stated that after announcing that she quit her 9 to 5, she was asked “where are you going?” I responded:
“People often ask this question, but what they really want to know is how to take this kind of chance and still land on their feet. The reality is, this kind of life is not for wall-flowers, order takers, and by the book personalities. This life is for those of us who would manage our own fates because the only alternative is being subject to the whims and machinations of others. Congratulations on being one of the brave ones.”
This post is for the brave ones: The ones who struggled to bite your tongue in the midst of an incompetent manager, one whose work you are doing but noone seems to notice or care; The ones who have been offered a title promotion without the raise; Those of you who are unable to swallow your pride to play the game because everything in you screams that doing so is an affront to your values. Try choosing yourself. Try being brave. You may surprise yourself. I hope that you do.