Our careers are supposed to be fun, right? If this is true, then how could a recent Gallup study have found that 70% of employees are not engaged. Employee engagement is critical to job happiness. Are you one of the 70%? Why is that?

Maybe it's because, from the time we are young, like a prearranged marriage of olden days, most of us were told by our parents that we were going to college.

So we start down this predetermined path; we go to college, we pick a major (often because others thought it was a good fit), we study, we work hard, we graduate, we get a job. For most of us, that job is in the career we just spent 4 years studying.

We begin our careers “in the real world” at the bottom with enthusiasm and high hopes of advancement. We might even believe that the road to the top is like a ladder.

And why wouldn't we think this way? We've heard about the corporate ladder for as long as we can remember. So we start a the first rung, put in our time and move up, right? Unfortunately, I have some painful news to share –

There is no such thing as a corporate ladder. It's a myth, a figment of our imagination.

The reality is that our careers are really more like a massively multiplayer video game. And like the heroine in a video game, our careers begin with that first job, our initial mission if you will.

We have very little skills (SP) and precious few experiences (XP). Our first mission sets us on a path that may or may not be aligned with what we thought we would do, what we went to school to study. Me, I studied aviation. My first job out of school, food server.

My food server stint was short lived as I was soon on my way to Disney World to make character heads for the theme parks. However, during my time as a food server, I gained valuable SP and XP that I would use later.

The skills and experiences I gained would be applied differently, but both were things I could leverage. In fact, every position I've taken since my career began has been about gaining valuable SP and XP, which I would use later in order to level up.

WHAT IS A CAREER BOOTSTRAPPER?

 

tombraider2011

Credit: http://www.thenerdist.com

Like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, my career has been a series of up, down and lateral moves. Sometimes the moves were on my main quest, other times I took side quests in order to gain new skills and valuable experience.

Gaining new SP and XP is critical because it stretches us personally and professionally. It also opens our eyes to new and exciting positions that we may not have ever seen had we continued along on our main mission. This is important because the truth about our careers is simple:

We define our career, we can't depend on others to define it for us.

For most of us, the path forward is never really clear, we figure it out as we go. We decide what positions to take, we define our level of engagement. We can choose to stick to our main mission, what we went to school to study, or we can decide to take a side quest.

Either way, we become dependent on using our own resources, to get through our tasks, assignments, or battles, instead of relying on help from others. If we were entrepreneurs we would be called a Bootstrapper. Let me explain.

According to dictionary.com, a Bootstrapper is someone who:

Gets (oneself or something) into or out of a situation using existing resources. Using your own resources rather than external help.

Since we use our SP and XP in a similar manner as entrepreneurs during our careers, what exactly makes up a career? Also, from dictionary.com, a career is defined as:

A chosen pursuit; the general course or progression of one's working life or one's professional achievements. An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress.

So what is a Career Bootstrapper:

Anyone who undertakes a chosen pursuit using their own resources (SP) and experiences (XP), to discover opportunities for advancement or professional achievements.

Like in life, we get out of our careers what we put into them. The choices we make along the way help us develop our personal brands which can and will unlock new missions and side quests we can choose to follow.

Understanding your brand will enable you to unlock the potential you have inside. So unmask your true identity and learn how to leverage your personal brand in order to drive your career.

Stop relying on others to advance your career. Instead, become a career bootstrapper and define it for yourself.

QUESTION: Are you a career bootstrapper? How have you leveraged your brand to advance your career?

 

Photo credits:

Skyrim – http://www.pickywallpapers.com/1920×1080/games/skyrim/skyrim-wallpaper/download/

Tomb Raider – http://www.nerdist.com/2013/03/review-tomb-raider-is-the-cream-of-the-croft/

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