#TakeYourselfToWorkDay – it’s a Thing
A dear friend of mine, formerly a Vice President of Design and Branding for a major beauty company, is about to graduate from Mystery School. For real. Her lengthy stint in one of the most coveted jobs in her industry was no longer resonating with her – it felt one dimensional and cheap, as if she was sending in some black and white paper doll version of herself to her job every day. Lots of us have been there, and there are lots of acceptable workarounds. But instead of cocktails and ceramics class, my pal decided to go really rogue. She has left her ‘day job’ and embarked on an internal magical mystery tour, exploring all of her own passions, talents and ideas. This process has led to some covetable wild and wonderful adventures and to some major self discoveries. Oh wait– and to Mystery School. Casual, right? Or just wacky? Perhaps. But here is the most interesting part of this ‘finding myself’ story: her steadfast belief is that this is the path to her true and future career; one where she will make plenty of money while serving her purpose. It’s literally, her life’s work.
And she is not alone.
What do you want to be when you grow up?? This question has plagued the American child for the better part of the last century. While it highlights the incredibly unique engine of possibility that created this country’s Horatio Alger roots, it also boxes up adulthood as something that comes tidily packaged inside of a career. What you DO is the answer to who you are. And – as a bonus – along with this selection, come all the ready-made trappings of identity. After all, if we were to play a lightening round of word associations, how many among us would say ‘Volvo ‘ after I said ‘accountant’? But this just-add-water brand of selfhood is being rejected by both the next Gen kids as well as by the third act Boomers. Today, people are looking more deeply for their personal identity and are self-curating it from a broad and diverse line up of ingredients. Ones that are not about the 9 – 5. You see, Who we Are no longer seems to be answered by What we Do.
This all points to the rather radical shift over the past few years in self-definition. The Great Recession smashed a fair number of tropes about what a ‘career’ was supposed to mean. Millennials spent their early career years in a sort of exit-less waiting room, unable to find meaningful work. Newly weaponized with Wi-Fi and laptops, they used their time to discover and amplify new skills, passions and talents leading have to everything from part time jobs, full blown companies, and to, well, happiness. The new ‘multi-hyphenate’ model was born. The NY Times reported on this radical shift back in 2014. In their piece on these ‘jugglers’, their reporter marveled on young people’s determination to enjoy their lives while exploring themselves. One young woman featured in the article, Margaret Choo, spoke of her desire to experience it all. She said, “There’s so much to get inspired by, there’s so much to take on.” Work was important, but it was something to blend into the bigger art of being. Ironically, by being shut out of the very career trajectory they had been promised, a broader and more engaged life had become obtainable. And the concept of moving from silo to silo of self in order to thrive no longer made sense. In fact, it seemed absurd.
Today that fusion of passion and production has become the cornerstone of the new way to work. Talk to anyone below the age of 30 and they will laugh at the concept of ‘work/life balance’. As one 27-year-old said to me during a recent interview “I have one life – work is part of that, but it’s all my life.” The concept of a separate ‘work persona’ that functions devoid of emotion or personal passion is fast becoming obsolete. Mike Robbins, the business thought leader, speaker and author, talks about this in his latest book : Bring Your Whole Self to Work: How Vulnerability Unlocks Creativity, Connection, and Performance. Mike has worked with companies like Google, Citibank and the San Francisco Giants to help create work cultures that welcome the very complex, multi-faceted humanness that makes up people. His theory – and one that seems to be in the stages of rapid adoption – is that the best work, and the biggest leaps come from teams that encourage people to take personal risks, share, have compassion, ask for help, and connect with others in a genuine way. In fact, it has been proven in recent years, that when we work this way, honestly with others whose lives we know deeply and authentically, we do more, reach deeper and go further. Teamwork takes trust, and trust comes from shared vulnerability. It’s that simple.
And now, Gen Z is taking this path to a whole new level. As opposed to looking at work as gigs to support their personal process, they see ‘gigs’ as exploratory extensions of who they are, and paths to who they want to become. The once achingly hipster labels of urban farmer, social entrepreneur or life coach are now actually titles of real careers, forged by young people determined to use intuition, self-searching and a desire to do something joyful and meaningful as milestones. They are frugal with how they will spend their precious time and are determined to find their own way into lives of purpose and intention. Busyness, senseless productivity goals, endless meetings won’t work here – and neither will they. They are choosing schooling, jobs and even cities as tools to bespoke living. One dynamic young woman newly transplanted to Knoxville, Tennessee gave me the clearest answer when I asked why she was there: Simply put, it gives me ‘The greatest ROI for living’.
Her life is her work, it’s not the other way around.
Diane von Furstenburg once remarked on her own personal journey: I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be. This sounds about right, right now. Maybe, we can have it all. Shazaam!!!!