The Search

Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World

Author Your Exceptional Career Narrative.

The landscape of work is going through a tectonic shift. Gone are the days of clocking in and clocking out without a second thought. People are kicking their careers into their own gear, ditching the mundane 9-to-5 grind, even if they don’t have their next gig lined up. And this isn’t a minor trend — in the US alone, millions are saying “see ya” to their workplaces each week!

The job departure rate is skyrocketing, with almost a third of employees saying adios to their jobs each year, and another third tailoring their roles to fit in passion projects or some precious family time.

The old rules are being scrapped. Folks are not settling for just any job – they’re on a quest for meaningful work. You’re no exception, my friend. This new professional era? It’s yours to seize, and in doing so, find that elusive happiness you’ve been craving. So, what’s the game plan?

Enter the territory of this Summary. Here’s your three-fold task: Reevaluate your beliefs about work, start chasing your own dreams, not someone else’s, and finally, take the reins to craft your exceptional career narrative.

Toppling Three Grand Illusions About Work

Let’s start by bulldozing some of the fairy tales you’ve been fed about work. Let’s face it, they’re myths.

Myth #1: I have a career.

Work has been on the receiving end of a bad rep for millennia. Remember the Garden of Eden? Work was the ultimate punishment for a divine misdemeanor. The concept of ‘work’ in multiple languages echoes this disdain. French and Spanish, for example, use ‘travail’ and ‘trabajo’, both derivatives of the Latin word for ‘torture’. But with the advent of the sixteenth century, literacy improved, agriculture bowed to industry, and people began to take charge of their lives. A new term was born: ‘career’.

Enter the scene, Frank Parsons. Never holding down a job for long, this early 20th-century gent set up shop to help folks make ‘good career choices’. His idea caught on like wildfire and led to the invention of the résumé, a linear representation of a person’s career. But there’s a hitch. This linear approach meant any deviation from your career path or time spent too little or too much in a role could hurt your résumé.

Fast forward to today. The job landscape looks more like a winding river than a straight highway, thanks to rapid technological advancements and changing skill requirements. Stability periods matter less, and ‘unstable’ periods matter more – those times when things go awry and signal a need for change. Bruce Feiler, the author, terms this shift as a ‘workquake’.

Myth #2: I have a path.

So, what is a ‘workquake’? Feiler defines it as a disruptive, inflection or reevaluation moment that pivots our work life in a meaningful way. Various events can trigger workquakes, such as landing a new job, returning to school, job loss, becoming a parent, or even dealing with a pandemic.

Workquakes may seem intimidating and unstable, but they’re also doorways to growth, renewal, and introspection. They let us rewrite our life scripts. The frequency and diversity of these disruptions are increasing, with significant repercussions. On average, we experience a workquake every two years and 10 months, with women facing them 22% more often than men.

This implies that our career paths aren’t carved in stone anymore. It makes the age-old advice of ‘Follow your dreams’ or ‘Pursue what brings you joy’ seem outdated. Feiler’s research found only 38% of people were living out their childhood dreams, and a mere 12% were following their passion.

Do you need a concrete plan then? Not really. Life happens, and plans tend to go off course due to unforeseen circumstances, events, or encounters. Feiler calls these sudden shifts ‘butterflies’, inspired by the butterfly effect. His advice? “Follow your butterfly.”

Myth #3: I have a job.

The times when people held a single job are long gone. Today, people juggle multiple roles. In fact, Feiler found that the average person has three-and-a-half jobs. And the term ‘job’ encompasses not just paid employment but also responsibilities like nonprofit board service or parenting. Excluding unpaid work, 63% of us hold more than one job. Plus, we’re also working on maintaining relationships, raising kids, handling social media, and caring for our bodies. Every role is a job. Feiler dubs this all-encompassing work definition as ‘Work360’. Within this, he identifies five distinct job types.

First off, your main job. What is that exactly? Your primary income source? The activity that consumes most of your time? Or maybe your primary source of purpose? Maybe you can’t even define it. Less than half of Americans, precisely 39%, have what you could call a main job.

Then you might have a side job, often known as a side hustle, providing extra cash, fulfillment, future opportunities, or a mix of these. It can serve as a stepping stone to self-employment while your main job pays the bills. Feiler found that around 75% of people have at least one side job.

Next up is the hope job. This is something you do in your free time, like writing novels or selling homemade goodies, with the aspiration it’ll grow into something bigger. Astonishingly, 89% of people have a hope job, ranging from writing memoirs, crafting comic books, making jewelry, performing burlesque, or kickstarting a new venture.

Then comes the care job, which involves looking after someone else, be it a child, parent, or neighbor. These jobs rarely pay, but they provide us with a sense of purpose.

Lastly, Feiler introduces us to ghost jobs. These deeply personal and unsettling roles resemble a job in their impact. A staggering 93% of Feiler’s participants faced internal battles that felt like jobs. These ghost jobs could involve workplace discrimination, self-esteem struggles, or financial concerns. Everyone grapples with such ghosts occasionally, and it’s crucial to acknowledge their existence rather than let people suffer in silence.

Now that we’ve busted three myths about work, is there any truth

The Truth about Work

Now that we’ve busted three myths about work, is there any truth that holds up against these new insights? Yes, and it revolves around a single, central idea: adaptability.

Truth #1: Adaptability is Key

In a world where work is rapidly evolving, the key to survival is not having a set path or a single job, but being adaptable. It’s not about meticulously sticking to a predetermined path, but about being open to change and being capable of making swift and meaningful responses to unexpected ‘workquakes’.

This adaptability manifests in numerous ways. For some, it might mean learning new skills to transition into a different industry. For others, it could involve switching to freelance work to gain a more flexible lifestyle. Or it might mean embracing the idea of a ‘side hustle’ or ‘hope job’ to explore new interests and potential career paths.

Truth #2: Work is Multidimensional

Today, work isn’t confined to a 9-to-5 office role. It extends to all aspects of our lives. This broader understanding is encapsulated in Feiler’s concept of ‘Work360’, which acknowledges the multiple roles we play, including unpaid ones like caring for loved ones or pursuing a passion project.

Recognizing work as multidimensional can bring balance and fulfillment. It promotes an understanding that our value and identity are not solely derived from our main jobs, but from a combination of all the roles we play.

Truth #3: Growth and Fulfillment Come from Embracing Change

Despite the uncertainties, embracing change can lead to personal growth and fulfillment. When we view ‘workquakes’ not as disruptions but as opportunities for reflection and reassessment, we can discover new interests, strengths, and directions that we might not have considered before.

This growth and fulfillment often come from the journey itself, not the destination. When we let go of rigid career goals and embrace the idea of ‘following the butterfly’, we allow ourselves to find joy and meaning in the process and stay open to possibilities.

Truth #4: Acknowledging and Addressing our Ghost Jobs

Just as it is essential to recognize our diverse work roles, it’s equally crucial to acknowledge the personal challenges that affect our work lives. These ‘ghost jobs’, as Feiler calls them, can significantly impact our mental health and job satisfaction.

Acknowledging these challenges is the first step towards addressing them. By bringing them to light, we can seek the support we need and start finding solutions. Whether it involves seeking professional help, speaking up about discrimination, or finding coping strategies, addressing these ‘ghost jobs’ can significantly improve our overall well-being.

In conclusion, the old myths about work no longer hold in our fast-changing world. But the truth about adaptability, multidimensional work, embracing change, and acknowledging our ‘ghost jobs’ can guide us towards a more flexible, fulfilling, and sustainable work life.

Concluding Remarks

As we draw this summary to a close, we offer you four guiding principles to steer your future success.

Principle 1: Unearth Your Authentic Self. To find success, you must delve deep into your past, retrieve your hidden dreams, and chart your course based on your unique narrative.

Principle 2: Embrace the Power of the Collective. Recognize that success is a shared experience, not a solitary pursuit. Discard the notion of solitary triumphs and instead, connect and collaborate with your community.

Principle 3: Derive Success from Purpose. Don’t subscribe to someone else’s definition of success. Seek what resonates with you, find what imbues your life with purpose, and let that be your version of success.

And lastly, Principle 4: Author Your Own Success Story. Your journey towards success is not a predetermined route, but a story that you continue to write every day. Remember, it’s not about reaching a specific destination, but the experiences and learnings you gather along the way. This ongoing narrative is yours, and you have the freedom to shape it.

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