Change Your Career While Keeping Your Job

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Marc Winitz, who’s a Vice President of Sales and Business Development for a US based information technology company. His thinking about work, which he captures in this fascinating article, turns some of the accepted wisdom about finding meaning at work on its head. Read and enjoy!

Although economic times have been uncertain over the past few years, there is still a lot of conversation going on around “doing what you love” or “pursuing your passion”. To be sure, I am not against the philosophy, per se, but I do find it a little misguided. We all go through peaks and valleys in life, and for a lot of people, that includes their career and work. It is fair to ask yourself “Do I love what I am doing?” or “Does what I do matter?” But I don’t think you have to have to correlate a specific passion for the work you do. There are a lot of ways to innovate and find meaning for yourself and I don’t believe that has to correspond to the way you make a living.

The Echo Chamber of “Passion”

It seems that an echo chamber has emerged and that you can’t read anything these days about a successful business or career without some reference to “pursuing your passion”. Entering that phrase as a Google search term provides over 1 million hits. There are legs to this and with good reason. We are going through historic change in the world in regards to global issues ranging from the interconnected financial system to the environment to our evolving views of race and religion. The world has gotten a lot smaller. And all this change makes people question their lives, and their livelihood. And that is very healthy in my opinion. But I think you can find innovation and meaning in what you do, without having to pursue a specific passion as your way of supporting yourself.

Career Ruts Are Normal

I work as a Vice President for US based information technology company helping large government and private sector agencies solve complex business process problems through the use of technology. I like what I do. It makes a difference in people’s lives. However, even that isn’t enough for me to be fully satisfied with my work environment. For most of us, myself included, it is easy to get in a rut regarding our day to day routine and I think that generally holds true no matter what type of work you do.

Career Fulfillment Can Come From Many Places

I’ve read many stories and know several people that felt they were stuck in their career and decided to make a radical change in their life. In some cases it has worked, but in others it hasn’t. Just by writing this I know there will be strong statements (I hope) in the comments section about a specific person making a radical change, quitting their job to pursue something they loved, and that it turned out to be the best thing they ever did for their career. I respect that. But it represents a small group of people from a success perspective. I am not saying that if you are in a bad work situation you should stay in it. Nor am I suggesting you shouldn’t try something completely different from a career perspective. However, if your work is tolerable, or good, or even great you can still have a fulfilling career – regardless of the ruts you hit or a lack of passion you feel for what you do. You just have to look for the opportunities to invest in yourself to keep your “passion” alive and channel them into your work life.

Extend Personal Interests

So the concept of “career” to me has become something much wider than my day job, or my passions, or anything else for that matter. I look at ways to improve myself and my skillset outside of my career by investing in myself. But I try to do it in way that provides me ways to integrate those interests back into my day job. About 5 months ago I started a personal development blog called Black Belt Guide. I have trained in Karate and also taught it for over 25 years. I always wanted to share the principles of martial arts but in a way that could be useful to anyone. I also enjoy writing. So the blog has provided a creative outlet for me which is something I was seeking.

Build Professional Skillsets Through Outside Activities

But I didn’t just start the blog for that reason alone. I wanted to learn about web 2.0 technology and the social web. Even though I work in technology neither of those areas are part of my day to day job: but they are going to be. So rather than trying to just “read about it” I used the blog as a way to learn simply by participating and working with technology like WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, etc…

Create Options for Yourself

In addition, I wanted to create a “brand” for myself. It was obvious that I could create such a brand in my day job, or that it would be memorable. But by tying the blog back to something that was both a little unusual and important to me, I have started to realize a return on that investment in a very personal way. This now gives me options. The involvement in blogging has served multiple needs personally and professionally. And I can leverage this experience, which I very much enjoy, directly into my work life through multiple areas.

Personal Investments Pay Professional Dividends

I was recently on a business trip and had a meeting with a potential customer. When I arrived my host said “Your blog is terrific, I feel like I already know you. I trained in martial arts as a kid.” I was a bit stunned, my blog is hardly popular (he later told me it is his policy to “google” all his vendors). The meeting went well as the “rapport” already existed even though I had never met this person face to face. We talked for 30 minutes about martial arts, blogging and personal development before we got to the business at hand. It’s not very common in a sales and business development situation where the buyer wants to talk about you as an authority figure.

Find Different Kinds of Work Outside of Work

I hope my approach offers some clues as to how you can innovate in yourself, grow professionally and find career meaning regardless of the work you do. Here are some thoughts to help you start view work and growth a little differently.

  1. Don’t view your work as the sole definition of how your life is defined or how you are perceived.
  2. Your career is more than just your day job. Find ways to expand outside your comfort zone to learn and grow.
  3. Passion is important so find outlets for it. Just don’t misplace its importance for having a fulfilling career.
  4. Look for opportunities to inject the things that interest you into your current work situation, even if they don’t apply right away or are obvious to you.

In addition to his challenging business schedule, Marc is a 4th degree black belt in Japanese karate, and blogs about personal development at www.blackbeltguide.com. You can follow Marc on Twitter @marcwinitz, or subscribe to his RSS Feed.

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Comments

  1. Interesting post Marc. I agree, the concept of finding your passion is a buzz word right now and it can be a narrow definition. As you pointed out there are many ways to pursue our passions, not least doing hobbies and things we enjoy outside work. I will have changed my career by this september from admin work to mentoring. I have worked hard in my spare time to build this up and it hasn’t been an overnight change but as you pointed out sometimes changes don’t have to be radical. I am learning to be more patient and persistant and this has definately helped me make the changes I have done.
    Thanks for a great post.
    Jen

    • Marc Winitz says:

      Hi Jen, that is great that you have successfully transitioned into a new career. One of the core drivers of martial arts training and what I have personally witnessed on a self development level is the idea of small changes that occur over long periods of time. I think there is a tendency to see “the grass being greener” on the other side (of career) and hoping a radical change will make things better. Often (but not always) that’s an illusion. As you say, persistence and patience pay off. Both very concepts to personal development. Thanks for your comment.

    • Christine says:

      I think that’s a terrific way to go about things, Jen.

      Lots of people make a radical change to leave something that they’re finding uncomfortable or boring, without really addressing what it is in them that’s bored or uncomfortable. They go to another job or create some self-employed something – only to find the same thing happens again in a different way. Steady progress forward, allowing each step of the way to guide you, allows you to avoid that sort of thing.

  2. Eduard @ People Skills Decoded says:

    Hey Marc,

    This is interesting. I know many of my clients get in a rut in their careers. And they often think they have to make a dramatic change, quit their jobs and stuff like that, when a few additions to their carers and lives would work much better. This is where not letting emotions overwhelm you and planing the next steps rationally is very important from my perspective.
    .-= Eduard @ People Skills Decoded´s last blog ..Good People Skills = Building Trust =-.

    • Marc Winitz says:

      That is a very concise way of sharing the thought Eduard, thanks for sharing.

    • Christine says:

      Thanks for the comment Eduard. I think we get too fixated on work having to be everything and forget that other things in life can be meaningful. Sounds like you’re doing good work in guiding your clients to explore possible ways beyond their careers from which to gain a sense of purpose.

  3. Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire says:

    It’s amazing how much a person can do to make their current job worthwhile. Most of it comes from within. Even if you have a terrible boss, there are still things you can do to create your own goals.

    Or, you can always jump ship and start a small business, for those people that are just itching to get out, no matter what.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..Small Business Owners- Instead of Selling Philosphy, Sell This and Get Wealthy =-.

    • Christine says:

      Thanks, Joshua!

      Your point about most of it coming from within – I think that’s the key. Sort that and you can sort so much else. Then the decision about whether you carve your path in a corporate direction, take an artistic route, follow an entrepreneurial calling, or do a bit of each is driven from your soul, and not something you’re trying to escape from.

      Good to see you again and thanks as ever for a meaningful comment.

      • Marc Winitz says:

        I’d also add that just the process of self examination of your particular situation is what is important. Sometimes jumping ship is the best course, but sometimes not. Also, more and more I believe it is up to an employee to seek challenge and growth in their work life. Corporations have less resources and time for employee development (generally speaking) than anytime in the past, so it is up to the employee to find places of development and work on them
        .-= Marc Winitz´s last blog ..Performance Under Pressure =-.

  4. This is an interesting post Marc and to be honest I don’t know where I stand on it.

    I think a lot of people, as others have already said, jump ship looking for something greener on the other side on the fence when in fact they are just in a rut. Many of society don’t wait things out and work on where they are right and just want a massive change in the hope that it’s better.

    But I also believe that if you have a passion that can be your work and career that you should follow it should you choose. Lots of people are stuck in a job they hate and could easily choose their passion to follow but don’t through a fear of failure or fear of not being accepted. These people need to simply (even though it isn’t always simple) break through through their barriers and chase their dreams
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..This week’s homework. What’s your genius? =-.

    • Marc Winitz says:

      Hi Ben,

      It’s a tough call in a sense. I am no “passion hater” I just think the term has now become overused and “bastardized” in a way that is losing meaning. If you are lucky enough to have a passion and can make work out of it, that’s great.

      Thanks for contributing here.

      Marc
      .-= Marc Winitz´s last blog ..Performance Under Pressure =-.

  5. Kate Bacon says:

    What fantastic comments…something to remember when making a radical leap from one career to another is that you take your mind with you. Dissatisfaction is a feeling and necessarily lies within. It’s always possible to respond differently to outside circumstances – this is no way means you have to put up with stuff that is not healthy (heaven forbid!) – but sometimes a small shift in mindset makes a huge difference.

    Kate
    .-= Kate Bacon´s last blog ..The Right to Lead =-.

    • Christine says:

      That’s a good point, Kate, about taking your mind with you, and dissatisfaction lying within.

      We are all so good at projecting stuff outwardly and blaming others – the boss, the company, our colleagues, the systems….. While there’s often real stuff in all of that, there’s a part too that is about our response to it and what it’s giving rise to in us. Without healing the hurts inside, the outside things will keep bouncing back in different ways. No matter of what setting we’re working or living in.

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