YGL is a professional organization of young men and women employed by the Federal Government. Our mission is to educate, inspire, and transform the current and future leaders of the Federal Government.
Are You Tired of Building a “Personal Brand”?
June 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm #132176
I was reading Harvard Business Review this morning and was pointed to a New York Times article by David Brook called “It’s Not About You.” There are several signs in my life right now suggesting that I need to pay attention to this message. I’m wondering if it resonates with other young leaders – here’s a relevant excerpt:
If you sample some of the commencement addresses being broadcast on C-Span these days, you see that many graduates are told to: Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself. This is the litany of expressive individualism, which is still the dominant note in American culture.
But, of course, this mantra misleads on nearly every front.
Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life. A relative suffers from Alzheimer’s and a young woman feels called to help cure that disease. A young man works under a miserable boss and must develop management skills so his department can function. Another young woman finds herself confronted by an opportunity she never thought of in a job category she never imagined. This wasn’t in her plans, but this is where she can make her contribution.
Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.
This was true for me – I always wanted to “do good (make a difference) and do well (make decent $$)”. I started out in the non-profit sector writing grants and realized that I could make a difference by helping organizations create, build and fund programs that helped thousands of people. As I wrote proposals, I noticed trends of generational changes in government that ultimately led me to meet Steve Ressler and now find myself helping tens of thousands more people via GovLoop. So how about you?
What has been your career path so far?
Has it been “all about you”…or all about solving
some kind of a serious public challenge?
My hunch is that Gen X and Gen Y are pretty keyed in on finding that balance between career and contribution. Will you prove me right? 🙂
Note: If you want to meet other young leaders who are interested in making a difference and solving our world’s most perplexing problems, be sure to check out Next Generation of Government Summit happening on July 28-29 in Washington, DC. I’ll be leading a panel on “Work-Life Balance” and will likely touch on this issue a bit.
June 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm #132194
I adore David Brooks, and of course I don’t think you can plan your life out in advance and expect it to unfold exactly as expected. But I don’t really understand the point he’s making. If as a young person you watch a loved one suffer from a terrible disease and decide to go into the medical field to try to help cure it, how is that not following your passion?
I love to write more than anything in the world (except maybe college football). And I think it’s what I do best, too. So when the time came to figure out what path to take in life, I set my sights on a career that would allow me to do lots of writing. I feel like it’s how I can make the biggest contribution, and I find it hard to imagine that’s a bad thing.
June 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm #132192
I got my Master’s with the intent that I would do sociological research and look at whether programs made a difference and impacted how people behaved. Instead I got hired by HHS to work with grants helping disadvantaged youth and thoroughly love working directly with these organizations. I can’t imagine going back to research now.
You also read, especially in these economic times, about recent grads looking at non-profits for jobs whereas a few years ago they may have looked at organizations that would offer a higher salary. Perhaps this economy will have a positive effect on our citizens even though we won’t see the effects for many years.
June 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm #132190
Hey Stephanie – I think the point he’s making is that a lot of young folks today (myself included – that is, if I’m still considered “young” 🙂 are pursuing career paths that start with the identification of a problem in society, then working like mad to come up with a solution. Sometimes that’s social entrepreneurship, sometimes that’s joining a socially responsible company…or sometimes that’s working for the government!
My hunch is (and I think this is Brooks’ point) that you’ll stumble upon a challenge along the journey that grips you and won’t let you do anything but work towards a remedy for it.
In the meantime, it sounds like you need to write about college football… 🙂
June 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm #132188
Awesome. My first job was at Whitman-Walker Clinic, writing grants to win HRSA Ryan White CARE Act funding…and there was nothing like walking past the people with HIV/AIDS that we were helping when I walked into work every day. I knew they’d get medicine and health care and other support they needed…even though they couldn’t afford it. And though my path has weaved it’s way to this place which is a bit more far removed, I’m happy to know I’m helping people like you who help people in need.
June 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm #132186
This is one of the best posts I have read on GovLoop. I’m sure it will inspire thoughtful debate and introspection.
June 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm #132184
Thanks, Jim! I hope so!
June 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm #132182
I’m tired of hearing about building a personal brand. I agree with David Brooks.
June 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm #132180
You know I was reading the same thing this morning and thought about this before I saw your post here. I think the key is the finding something that drives, excites, you see potential in or [insert your own phrase here]. If you find that inside or outside yourself is secondary, I have a feeling there are just many more opportunities outside yourself to find that passion. Just ensuring your family is clothed and has food on the table is what drives many people on a day to day basis.
In my own case I found writing code to be the thing that drove me. At 12 I knew that is what I wanted to do an that I would do everything I had to make sure it happened. Now as I get older I have found that becuase of the skills I have I am able to give back not only in form of solving business problems through technology but also teaching kids, mentoring and even fixing the occasionaly family member’s computer :).
An your point on work life balance is very important, I find many people my age and younger are trying to setup thier personal and professional lives so that even if there is not a balance there is at least flexibility. I have no problem working 50-60 hours a week as long as I can go to every one of my sons and daughters school functions, dr appointments, etc.
June 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm #132178
I really liked this David Brooks piece; thanks for highlighting it, Andy! Growing up with a father who knew exactly what career he wanted from a young age, I have struggled with my inability to identify one, singular “passion” or skill and pursue it. (Also, you can imagine my parents worrying whether my liberal arts education was a waste of money…it wasn’t.) I’m interested in a lot of different things and am still trying to figure out how to put all the pieces together. Reading that article gave me a sense of relief, because I definitely fell into my first job. Lucky for me, I ended up liking it.
But if you’d asked me at 17 what I would be doing in 10 years, I would have never imagined my life now. I’ve definitely carried a few core skills and values along with way (a love of writing and a desire to work in a field that was motivated by helping people rather than turning a profit), but much of my path has been shaped my experiences as well.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.