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Building Sustainable Careers. . . 
Does Your Career Support Your Financial Well-Being? - The 7th Characteristic of a Sustainable Career
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill

How can our careers sail through economic storms that buffet and threaten to capsize our financial well-being?Introduction
People go to work to provide for themselves and produce value in the world. They often see the “what” and the “why” of work through diverse prisms bringing them a differing prospective. For example, take the story of three quarrymen cutting limestone in Indiana. The first man was asked what he was doing, and he replied that he was cutting rock. The second man responded that he was providing for his family. The last man, doing identical work, was asked the same question. He said he was building a cathedral. Of course, all three answers were correct.

We work to provide for our own financial needs and those of our families, but on a grander scale, we work to make dreams come true – our own and those of others. Unfortunately, this is an age where many see their work merely as chipping rock; for the price of not having work is apparent all around us. How can we be financially secure while facing cost-cutting reductions, automation, new technology, drastic shifts in global markets or shipping whole industries offshore? How can our careers sail through economic storms that buffet and threaten to capsize our tiny vessels of financial well-being?

What’s the Key to Financial Well-Being?

Ultimately, financial well-being means that we can take care of our basic human needs for home, food, transportation, education, health care and those things that are important to us. What this means monetarily varies for each of us.

Does Your Career Foster a Meaningful Life?
Have you devoted enough time recently to ponder what gives your life meaning?

What’s the key to your financial well-being?
  • Having the talent or skills that contribute to the well-being of others;
  • Having skills that are highly relevant to your organization’s needs and strategies;
  • Knowing and quantifying the value of your talent and skills; and
  • Having the possibility of sustaining and building your level of financial well-being.

Review your answers and see if they satisfy your innermost dreams. If not, keep searching for what gives you meaning.

Changing Our Attitudes about Work and Career
We seem to be going full circle and returning to a world of free agents. Our livelihood no longer depends on working for an organization. It depends on us having skills that are deeply needed and knowing how to turn those skills into some kind of financial gain – salary, fee, honorarium, loan, barter, trade, etc. We can no longer depend on any one institution for our financial well-being. Organizations rise and fall, union contracts are broken, spouses divorce and leave, governments are broke, pensions can disappear and institutions fail .What does this mean? Our financial health and well-being is up to us. What do you bring to the table? What are your skills worth?

Before the Industrial Revolution, most people were free agents, creating or taking work where they could find it. Only nobles were land owners, but those with skills that others needed earned enough for themselves and their families, like blacksmiths, bakers and candlestick makers. Horses needed to be shod, bread needed to be baked and darkness needed to be illuminated. Still, craftspeople had to market themselves and build a network of people who needed their goods and services. Tiny groups and families, guilds, and farms soon grew up and apprenticeships provided skills to the next generation. People who failed to develop their crafts did not fare well.

Today, like before the Industrial Revolution, knowing your skills, what the market needs, and how to sell yourself is all-important. Life happens. How can you craft a career that makes you self-reliant and assures financial well-being, no matter what the future holds and how the work environment changes? Although you may be in a place now where your job provides for your needs, events outside of your control can change that.

More and more people are creating a tapestry of work and taking their careers totally into their own hands. In fact, you may discover, as many have learned, that turning into a free agent is a better way of life. More and more people are doing this inside of their current organizations. Creating work is different than finding a job. Creating work gives you power. Finding a job puts the power into the hands of others. Although there is risk in autonomy, there is also risk in an organization. You don’t need to leave an organization to create a new job. If you read the trends and listen to your customers you can create new projects, change or enrich your job. You ride the waves of change. They bring new possibilities for those who are looking.

Jobs vs. Careers
You own your career – a path you’ve designed that lets you work in a profession or trade that’s meaningful to you and that others need and are willing to pay for. The strongest careers are based on building excellence in your profession or trade. The closer those careers come to taking care of one our basic human needs, the more assurance those careers will be sustainable.

On the other hand, jobs are simply ways to package skills required in a profession or trade – for instance in finance: payroll clerk, tax analyst, budget analyst, accounting supervisor, mortgage loan processor, senior estimator, etc. The thing we need to realize is that jobs can be taken away from you, but your career is yours. No one can take away a CPA certification, an airframe mechanical certification, a physician or nurse’s medical training or a lawyer’s law degree. The professions and trades are the cornerstone of careers and they are where you need to invest your time and energy. Become and expert!

How financially secure are you?
Listed below are 10 indicators of financial well-being. Read each one to assess your financial security. If your answer is NO read the brief recommendations and take action.

Let change be the driver for your entrepreneurial thinking, Always be looking for new possibilities that will meet the needs of your customers, expand the options of your organization and keep your innovative spark alive. Bring your organization into an entrepreneurial culture. Build a dynamic, sustainable career.

Financial Indicatorheading here YES NO
1. Have a long-term financial plan that clearly shows what you need to earn to be secure – Write it down and run it by an expert. Know exactly what you need to have the lifestyle you want and what you need to be saving for the future. Get rid of debts. Have a hefty savings plan.    
2. Be one of the best in your field, NOT just your job Take every learning opportunity you can to stay current and ahead of the curve. Participate in projects, build networks, read blogs & journals that keep you learning and ahead of the trends hitting your field. Build the new skills required.    
3. Know the value of what you do and bring to your organization If you’re not adding value, you are at risk. If you are adding value, but not sure what it is, especially in financial terms, run the math. Know your worth and be sure the “powers that be” know your worth.    
4. Build strong relationships with key people in your field Find experts inside and outside of your organization who know what you can do and could provide work ideas and alternatives.    
5. Work in a profession or field that is flourishing If it’s not a key profession in your current organization, beware. Start checking out other organizations that require expertise in your profession.    
6. Work in an industry that is flourishing If it’s not a key profession in your current organization, beware. Start checking out other organizations that require expertise in your profession.    
7. Have a plan to get rid of your debts List all of your debts. Develop a long-term strategy to be debt free. Do not incur new debt.    
8. Check out micro-funding sources for a pet project, dreams, or business idea If you’ve got a great idea that you can’t sell in your current organization, don’t give up. Explore other avenues for bringing your innovations to life.    
9. Get known by head-hunters and called by them It’s always good to know that your talent and skills are needed by others. This gives you confidence, a backup, and chance to get to know what else is out there. Then, you can better quantify your value in the workplace.    
10. Have a Plan B If you get laid off, your spouse needs to move, or you need to take care of a loved one, etc., do you have a plan to make enough money to provide for your financial well being? Develop a Plan B to teach, consult, be an outside contractor, work in another field that fits your schedule and provides enough income for well- being.    

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Bayer, Sprint, Sodexo, Sandia National Labs, and CapitalOne. MasteryWorks, Inc., provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is the leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients. In her current series, “Facing Changes of the Next Decade,” Dr. Farren describes the most important characteristics of Sustainable Careers.

For more information, contact Tom Karl, Vice President, or call us at (703) 256-5712.

MasteryWorks, Inc.
2230 George C Marshall Drive, Suite 122 Falls Church, Virginia 22043 USA 800-229-5712