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“Live to Work” or “Work to Live”?

September 17, 2010 6 comments

I’ve always believed in the companies I’ve worked for. Similarly, I’ve always believed in the bosses I’ve worked for. I’m unsure if this was “luck” or me seeking out people who inspire me and business models I take pride in working for, but regardless, I realized this past week I wouldn’t except anything less.

I never understood how people could work 9 AM – 5 PM, take a lunch hour, and go home feeling fulfilled at the end of the day. Perhaps it goes back to the age old verbiage, some people “live to work” while others “work to live”. I’m more of a “live to work” person. I had never really ‘discussed’ my career / career options with anyone except my husband and friends, and as I’m at what I believe to be a pivotal point in my career; I decided maybe it was time to speak with an expert. No, not a ‘shrink’, but a career counselor.

While I’m consulting right now; owning my own business, I do want to go back into the ‘working world’; I miss having a team and definitely miss having people around I can learn from. As the higher education industry is booming right now (perhaps not in a good way), jobs in the industry for innovators are aplenty. Every time I interview or speak to a prospective company about a future relationship, I get excited. I can’t help it; I love building things from the ground up. That said, I couldn’t figure out why I was always excited (at first) and the more I learned about each company, the less excited I became. I loved the people, love the ‘start up’, but my gut was repeatedly telling me, “STOP”. I couldn’t figure out why, but after reviewing my notes from the career counseling session I had, it was clear; it’s because I’m not passionate about anything I’ve been offered. There is nothing truly innovative, nothing new, and certainly nothing that will address the issues the for profit education sector is dealing with right now.

This is an interesting paradox for someone who owns their own consulting business as the way I make money is by working with companies and teaching them how to do things that I’ve done successfully in the past. The problem is; I don’t believe most of what the for profits have done in the past will be useful for the future. Certainly, the skill sets and experiences will help to be successful, but innovation is going to ‘win’ in this industry. So, for the past 8 months I’ve been working, doing what a ‘consultant’ does, made more money than I’ve ever made before; and I have a fiduciary responsibility to continue running this business until I do find something full time that I am passionate about. But I wonder, from a psychological standpoint, how one can continuously work on projects that I don’t believe have a solid chance of long term success?

Short term success? Certainly. Can I bring a business to profitability? Can I teach them best practices? Can I education them about marketing, call centers, operations, and give the best recommendations in TODAY’s world – Absolutely. But in this industry, ‘today’s world’ is rapidly changing.

So the question for me is – how long am I willing to work for businesses I’m not passionate about? I’m delivering for the companies; but not delivering for myself. I am not fulfilled. I hate working from 9 AM – 5 PM. I hate not waking up at 2 AM with a great idea that I can draw up and execute on as I rush into the office at 7 am the next day. I hate not feeling the ‘fire in the belly’. But, I guess this is the life of a consultant. People pay you for your expertise, but you’re not necessarily building something that matters. I originally thought they money would outweigh the need to be passionate about a business. When the money didn’t excite me anymore, I told myself that the executives I was learning from would motivate me to feel passionate about what I was doing. Turns out, that hasn’t worked either. So, I continue in my quest for a meaningful role in a company I believe in and whose model I am passionate about. And I’m left with the question: Would life be easier if I could ‘teach’ myself to “work to live” instead of “living to work”?

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