Your Career Q&A: Turn Your Dreams—or Something Like Them—into ‘Me Inc.’

By Martin Yate November 6, 2018
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Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professionaltakes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.  

 

I've been in HR for about six years and have worked for multiple employers. I have a master's degree in business administration and PHR and SHRM-CP certifications. Safe to say, I'm pretty invested in my career—timewise and moneywise.

My issue is that I don't know where to go from here. I've made it to HR manager (I'm the only HR professional) for a small manufacturing company, and I am still unfulfilled. I'm not sure if I'm bored with HR or the company. I've job-jumped a lot, thinking the next place will be better.

Everyone says, "Do what makes you happy." I have no idea what will make me happy. I've thought about trying to go to law school or get my Ph.D., or even leaving HR―but where would I go? I've
never really felt a "calling," per se.

Please help. Thank you.


If you and I had financial independence, I doubt either of us would be involved in our current professions. We got here following what we thought was the best advice available:

  1. Do what makes you happy. Follow your bliss and never work another day in your life.
  2. Start at the bottom, work hard, be loyal and make sacrifices, and you will be rewarded with growth and long-term security.

The first piece of advice isn't a career management plan; it's a warm and fuzzy aspirational platitude. The second option proved itself effective for most of the last 50 years of the 20th century, but it is irrelevant today in a corporate world that no longer offers job security.

Here is what most of us want in life:

  • Rewarding work.
  • Financial stability.
  • Personal fulfillment. 

There are three ways to make this happen:

  • A corporate (or "core") career.
  • An entrepreneurial career.
  • Pursuing your dreams and perhaps turning them into income streams.  

A corporate career, uncertain as it is, remains the surest way to middle-class success and can deliver invaluable on-the-job training for running your own business. A successful entrepreneurial career means making money for yourself and your family. Learning from your core career increases your odds for achieving financial success as an entrepreneur.

Passions and dreams are ideas we often forget as we pursue a core career, yet they bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. Every business begins with a dream, so your dreams can be a good starting point for an entrepreneurial career. At the age of 9, I had a dream of being a writer, but it took me another 26 years to get published—and many years pursuing a successful corporate career—before I could  turn my dream into a business that delivered financial stability and freedom.

A Valid Alternative

This approach to career management does not focus on immediate and large monetary rewards. Instead, think of yourself as a financial entity that must survive over the long haul. You become "Me Inc.," a company that's focused on your well-being.

It is clear that you've put everything into your career, but it just isn't working for you. I believe if you bought into the Me Inc. approach and studied and applied it, your professional success and perhaps economic stability would improve.

If you are really lost as to what job or dream you want to pursue, I can recommend a skills and aptitude assessment that absolutely nailed my best options: the MAPP career test. MAPP is based on the idea that we like to do the things we are good at and we tend to be good at the things we like to do. Complete the MAPP test and then go to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website for a detailed breakdown about daily life in that job.

It's not an either/or world anymore. Whatever you want, whatever you can conceive, you can achieve. The biggest challenge is that the accomplishment is a marathon, not a sprint. You don't always succeed at precisely the thing you set out to do, but you can, nonetheless, be successful. I wanted to write fiction and failed. Instead, I ended up writing 85 editions of 18 career management books―that's not exactly coming up with a fistful of mud, is it? If you know where you stand today, you can build steppingstones that will get you to most of the places you want to go in life.

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter. 

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!

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