Anyone who has taken piano lessons is familiar with the metronome; a wooden apparatus that sits on top of the piano with the sole purpose of setting the tempo. The pendulum features a small counter-weight that can be raised or lowered vertically to set the beats per minute. Careers seem to follow the same theory. There is a rhythm to professional lives; sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes barely audible, but there is always a definite beat.
What most people fail to realize is that we all set our own pendulums. It may seem as though the boss, the economy, or those who depend on us for sustenance are arranging our priorities, but that is simply not true. We are impacted by those things, but they do not set the pace of our careers unless we choose to let them.
The times that seem to be the most traumatic in our professional lives are when we are looking for a new job, hate the job we have, or are unemployed. Things may happen over which we have little control, but response is everything. We all decide what we will compromise; what is too important to compromise; and how we can be successful without losing ourselves.
Just like the pianist can alter the speed of the metronome by adjusting the counter-weight on the pendulum, we have the power to alter, perhaps not the environment in which we work, but certainly our response to it. We do not have the power to change the project, the client, or the people, but we do have the power to decide on our own boundaries.
Your career is supposed to fulfill you, and, on occasion, it should even be fun. Despite the fact that bottom line figures, profit margins, and market shares are serious business, there should be moments during the tedium of getting the job done that you actually feel rewarded and have enjoyed at least some dimension of the process.
Careers should be periodically assessed. Am I where I want to be? Am I reasonably compensated for the work I do? Can my family survive on, not only what I bring home, but who I am when I get home? Do I have a knot in my stomach before I go to work in the morning? Am I proud of my work and the manner in which I accomplish tasks? Do I have a sense of pride in the company I work for and the people with whom I work? Am I fulfilled? Do the ethics and moral obligations of the company mirror my own? Is there anything I do that I would be ashamed to tell my four-year-old. ..or explain to my grandmother
If you answered any of these questions haltingly, it might be time to re-evaluate your career choices. All of the power belongs to you. After all, you are the owner of your own metronome.