Where should you work?
If money is tight and job opportunities are in short supply, your answer might be “anywhere that will pay me!” While that’s not a terrible answer, it is also not an answer that’s likely to satisfy you long-term.
Consider three mindsets that can help you frame your thinking about your career (and your “non-working” life as well!). As you read, do a little soul-searching. Ask yourself, “Which of these perspectives do I tend to embrace?”
I am dependent. On one end of the spectrum is a mindset of dependence. These are the folks who look for someone, some company, to “give” them a job with clear objectives. They rely on a boss or manager to tell them what to do, when to show up, and when to go home.
Jobs requiring this much supervision generally don’t pay much money. Take such a job and it’s doubtful anyone will ever ask for your input. But if you manage to work for a stable company, at least you have work, right? You have a measure of security. Will you ever get a chance to learn new skills and move up the ladder? It’s possible. But for that to happen, you’ll have to outwork the rest and catch a break or two.
With a dependent perspective, you do whatever you’re told. You keep your head down. When tough times come, you pray you won’t be in the next round of layoffs.
For workers with this mindset (and these kinds of jobs), work becomes mostly about survival. It often means living paycheck to paycheck. And many have to spend a lot of their meager income on debt payments. Why? Because back when they needed to buy big-ticket items, they didn’t have the cash, so they borrowed.
I am independent. At the other end of the spectrum is a mindset we might call independence. Here, nobody tells you what to do. You call the shots. As a CEO or the founder of a start-up, you don’t have a “supervisor” breathing down your neck. And you don’t have to walk a tightrope in dealing with fellow employees.
If you have a skill that is highly valued by others, you’ll be well compensated. This means you can be choosy when it comes to clients.
For successful independents, work is more about the results they produce, than the way they produce them. Those with this perspective work to succeed, not to survive. Work means freedom to do things their way.
Independence sounds pretty good. But there’s a downside to fully embracing this mindset: You’ll always limited by yourself. Even the most talented or hard-working person has gaps and deficiencies. He or she needs others in order to produce the best results.
Which leads us to a third perspective, one that’s neither too dependent nor too independent…
I am interdependent. The interdependent person borrows the best qualities from each of the previous mindsets. Like an independent person, she realizes, “I have certain skills I can develop and use in order to make a difference.” And—like a dependent person—he wisely recognizes, “I may not need ‘supervision,’ but I do need lots of help. I’m not competent at certain things. Therefore, I need to team up with others who have those strengths.”
In brief, interdependent people lock arms with others. Or you could say they stand on the shoulders of other bright, innovative human beings. And the result is a final product that is stronger and better than anything a single person could produce. They realize the truth of the old saying that “ ‘We’ is preferable to ‘me’.”
Interdependent people maintain a healthy measure of independence, but they also know the value of strategic cooperation. They wouldn’t think of embracing the perspective of absolute independence. It’s far too limiting. They’re not dependent—they can (and do) take initiative. But they also have the humility to count on others to provide skills they themselves lack.
For interdependent people, work is satisfying and fulfilling because they work in their areas of strength and enjoyment and cooperate with others to do the rest. They tend not to ask, “How can I do this thing?” but “How can I partner with others who have abilities I lack—so that the result is better than any of us working independently?
Interdependence allows us to focus and expand at the same time. You focus by using your knowledge and talents as expertly as possible. You expand by tapping into the unique abilities of others.
I started with the question of how anyone can decide where to work? Here’s my best answer:
“Make it your goal to work in places that help you avoid the extremes of a totally dependent mindset or a utterly independent mindset. Instead work where you can collaborate healthily with other talented people who bring out the best in each other.”
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