Careers are more than just the work you do. For millennials like you and I, our careers must have meaning. We live in an age where we resist settling—in careers, in relationships, in places. We seek deeper meaning, we want to make an impact. We want to do something that makes our 50+ years of working 40-hour weeks seem worth it.

In this episode of the Own Up Grown-Up podcast, I talk to a friend who loves to learn. More than that, he’s learned how to learn. If that’s confusing, thinking about it this way: some of us go to school to get good grades and some of us go to school to get a better understanding of the world we live in. I’ve always thought of careers as the same thing: you can get a career to make a lot of money or prove yourself in some way (ugh…middle management) or you can treat each job as a step in a career which is the culmination of all of the things you’ve learned and contributed over time. By the end, you can write an original thesis drawn from your experience.

Even though I have been pursuing different careers, it really hasn’t been the main thing that’s changed for me. Those [jobs] are just the environments, the space in which the transformations have happened for me, because it’s really my consciousness, my perspective that’s had to change, the things I practice have to be different. Instead of being so analytical and judgemental and harsh about myself and other people I’ve learned to be more grateful and accepting and that took real effort and real practice…”—Saran Ekambaram

Saran and I were roommates in the early 2000’s in Tofino, British Columbia. We both experienced an interesting culture of transient runaways and self-seekers—we were among them—and I can’t imagine a better place to be at such an early age. Coming from a small town where everyone knew me and my family, and going somewhere where I knew no one, I had the freedom to change and to become open to new possibilities. I highly recommend that everyone do this at least once in their lives.

Saran’s family moved to Canada from India when Saran was very little. He’s grown up not feeling not really a part of Canada or India. As an adult, he went back to rediscover where he’d come from. In a way, Canada seems to still be trying to find its identity as well, a mere baby on the timeline of established countries. Saran’s visit to India provided an important perspective on life and how change is much harder when you’re bound by social standards and cultural traditions. But it is still possible.

Coming to grips with being different from previous generations

Last week, someone remarked that they assumed I would have responded to their text right away because young people always have their phones on them. We are being judged as different, even though previous generations are mostly responsible for the conditions, environment, and culture we live in. In a globalized, rapidly changing world it’s important to remember that not everyone’s experience is the same—we have to stop generalizing.

…says the woman who uses the word millennials far too often.

People don’t understand how different the world is and how much more aware and reflective we are. People like to complain about the millennials, about everybody that grew up in our generation is like a special little snowflake and gets participation ribbons and stuff like that, but that wasn’t really my upbringing.”—Saran Ekambaram

We live in an age where costs outweigh earnings, where most employers don’t offer useful benefits or retirement funds, and where technology is slowly seeping into every area of our lives. We are not victims of circumstance, but we must be creative in how we adjust to and thrive in this new age. Our parents want the best for us, but it’s important to make your own decisions and find your own way in life, because your parents may not understand what the future holds.

Finding the right career means putting down Facebook for a while and focusing on the hard stuff

There’s nothing wrong with exploring several career paths, but finding the right career (the one you want to stick with for more than two years) requires a better understanding of what you want out of work and life. What’s most important to you, what are you best at, and what do you want to learn and contribute?

This stuff’s not easy. I flitted from job to job, thinking the next job would have the right atmosphere, the right salary, etc. The hardest thing about most jobs for me was going to the same place every day, hanging out with the same people (who spent a lot of time trying to maintain the status quo and complaining about their job), and doing the same things over and over again. I needed to be location independent and to be around different people who were enthusiastic about life and the work they do. Once I understood that, I went to work figuring out how to make it happen. In the meantime, I uncovered talents supported by all the skills I’d learned from previous jobs: customer service, marketing, project management, etc.

Saran’s experience has been similar. While he acknowledges that he may not be a teacher forever, the career utilizes his talents while stoking his passion for continuous learning. His previous experience will bring unique perspective and skills. That’s a career.

I’ll leave you with that, little snowflakes. If you’re unsatisfied with your job or you’re bouncing from job to job, it might be time to stop and think about what you’re really looking for. It’s probably not just a pay raise.

CONTEST ALERT!

Win a copy of Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” (plus a couple other surprises)! “Daring Greatly” was a pivotal book that helped me figure out some pretty important life stuff.

This contest will be open until April 3rd. Enter now [will link to a FB contest]