Managing Your Career: Sometimes a Job is Just a Job

Chris Guillebau’s recent retweet – “never take a job you’re already qualified for” – combined with playdate with a mom with two small kids yesterday –  reminded me (once again) that sometimes you take a job because it is just a job. And a job for which you’re well qualified.

The fantasy among some career counselors is that career planning is strategic planning with precision tactical implementation. It might be. But life is messier and sloppier than that, and sometimes the job you take is precisely because you are well qualified for it. And it’s easy to do. And it’s not a challenge.

Why? Because the rest of your life might be one ongoing challenge and your job is the one place in your life where you’re not bent, folded, or stapled.

Like the mom I had the playdate with yesterday (two great kids, one 9, one almost 3), she was pushed between working part-time, taking care of the youngest son as he gets set to go to preschool, and getting her oldest son in a school that fits him better than the last school he was in. And like a lot of moms (and dads), the logistics of managing that is a push.

So the job she’s in is one that she knows, is well qualified for, and doesn’t particularly push her hard. She’ll likely save the career mountain climbing for when the youngest is in grade school and settled in and life becomes more predictable. As work philosopher and visionary Charles Handy has suggested, careers for life for most people are a thing of the past. Instead careers are most likely a series of steps (think of lilies on a pond) that you traverse, each one heavily dependent on what else is going on in your life. As Frances McDormand has noted, “Who can worry about a career. Have a life.”

So sometimes you do take those jobs for which you’re already qualified. Why? Because sometimes you’re not looking to push yourself, grow your career, and become famous, and at that point you realize what you want is a job that is just a job.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.