Building your career often feels like a constant climb up a very tumultuous and rocky terrain. But does it have to? This is exactly the question I asked myself a few years ago. I was at a place where I’d spent the majority, if not all, of my career trying to find the next job that would pay just a bit more, offer a bit of opportunity and have an environment I could tolerate. The assumption was that work is hard.
But at some point things shifted for me. I found myself working with a team that was nothing short of amazing. I was doing work I was best suited for and for people who actually wanted what I had to offer. I was being challenged in all the best ways. I was thriving at work vs. merely surviving and it was glorious. It was truly amazing to see what I was capable of when I wasn’t investing all of my energy in trying to survive the slings and arrows of a survival environment.
Thriving isn’t about how much money or material success you have. It’s about how capable you are at trusting that life is working for you so you can spend your energy and time on what kind of contribution you want to make. If you’re tired of the constant struggle that comes with surviving through your career, here are a few tips that I have found helpful to create a thriving career.
Know the difference between surviving and thriving. The brief definition you might get for thriving if you looked it up is for one to grow, prosper and flourish. If you look up surviving you will get something closer to someone remaining alive after someone or something has died. At least that’s what I’ve found, and I must admit, both of those definitions resonate quite nicely with the experiences I’ve had.
If you wish to thrive, you have to embrace the very possibility that surviving is not the only option you have when it comes to your career and actually, when it comes to your very existence. Humans in general have been on a pursuit of survival since the dawn of time. The idea that we may have reached a point where thriving is possible doesn’t always come naturally. But if you can’t imagine it as possible, you’ll be hard pressed to truly experience it.
Develop a thriving mentality. If we must be able to think like what I call ‘thrivers’, then what does that look like? It’s a belief that there is abundance, no matter what the situation. Didn’t get the promotion? There’s plenty of opportunity so I don’t need to stress over not getting this one. Didn’t land the job? There must be a better suited job around the corner.
This isn’t just for the tangible things like jobs, raises and promotions. You have to be able to see and feel the abundance of acceptance, appreciation and, dare I say, love in your life and work. Someone didn’t say thank you for the work you did that required three all-nighters? My work matters. What could I say thank you for? How can I appreciate myself? What’s the bigger purpose of my work? It’s probably bigger than kudos from other people. We must have abundance to give to ourselves. If we don’t, we end up feeding off fear that is usually based on the ‘what if’ negative vs. the ‘what if’ positive.
Go towards abundance. Like tends to attract like. When you start to move towards thinking and feeling abundant, you start to be attracted to abundant situations. When we choose survival mode we inadvertently or purposely choose situations that require struggle, are stacked with rejection and full of disappointments we must overcome. Why would we choose that? Well there is the specialness that comes with surviving the impossible. As well as the adrenaline from overcoming daily obstacles. We can get addicted to that roller coaster experience.
Instead, I recommend starting to find situations and places that are already thriving. Glassdoor has just published a great list of 25 jobs with the best career opportunities. Even the very existence of a list like this is a sign of abundance. And they’re just listing the top 25!
And even if your desired career field didn’t hit the top 25 list, look for where growth is possible. Remember, part of thriving is looking relentlessly for possibilities. You don’t ignore obstacles. But you categorize them as speed bumps or detours vs. dead-ends. Maybe you will be the person that creates the demand for what you are passionate about. When you lead with the belief that you can thrive your brain is set off on the task to make that the reality. It will be creating, noticing and deciding all on behalf of that mission.
Choose to work with leaders who are ‘thrivers’. Thriving takes practice and skill. It’s not just a flip of the switch. Often when we think of mentors or leaders, we tend to look for someone with experience in our chosen field. But if you expand your lens and start to find those people who have developed an Olympic level of thriving conditioning, it will help you level up that much faster in this area.
Leaders who are thrivers are far more resourceful and effective than those in constant survival mode. They are assuming things are supposed to be functional. They are also not afraid of the unknown so they don’t shy away from the new and different. They are comfortable with different viewpoints because it’s not a matter of their survival to be right all the time. They engender trust easier because they don’t have an eat or be eaten mentality.
Since thriving is a life skill, thriver leaders can be at all levels in hierarchy and all walks of life. A high-level title is not required to be skilled at thriving. You could say there is an abundance of thrivers out there to learn from.
Allow yourself to let go and let in. My mother was the ultimate survivalist. She grew up in war torn Germany and lived the rest of her life prepared for the bleakest of existence, no matter how her life changed or what abundance may show up for her. She was a hoarder. I’m talking extreme keeper of all belongings. At anytime anything could be taken from her so she held on to everything. She also didn’t allow people into our home. The infamous ‘they’ was always the danger just waiting on the other side of the door.
This may sound extreme and you wouldn’t be wrong. But I see this same level of extreme survival in the workplace. People operating in constant fear of not being or having enough and losing their job or status. They won’t let go of control of their work or decision making and they won’t let in new ideas or different ways of thinking. They are in a panicked dance with annihilation and don’t even realize it. Instead they say they have to do what they can to make it in a highly political environment.
I encourage to let go of needing to be in control. Trust yourself to be creative and resourceful enough to navigate any unexpected outcome or event. Let in what is presenting itself to you. Trust that life is serving you and your career vs. constantly trying to trip you up. You may be amazed at all you may do as a thriver vs. survivor.