What is on your career Christmas list this year? A job, a different job, a better job? More responsibility, more pay, more flexibility? You might be a new worker, looking for a sense of direction. You might be a veteran, seeking the rewards you are entitled to. It’s okay to make a list of what you want. In fact, it’s a good idea, all year round; studies show that those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. And during Christmas, you’re doubly justified. You’re expected to want things during the Christmas season. It’s the American way. You might as well do it right and wish for things that really matter. I know that if Santa gave me a choice between a 70-inch smart HDTV, and reaching the next step along my perfect career path, I’d pick the next step in a heartbeat.
But, since it is Christmas, remember that getting something from your own Christmas list, even when you’re encouraged to make one, is not necessarily the best thing that could happen. All around you, you are surrounded by a world of people with their own career Christmas lists. Some of these people are strangers. Others are there in your workplace. Still others are people you encounter outside of work. Their lists may be similar to yours, or very, very different. Some of the items on these people’s lists may be things that you simply cannot offer them.
Still, you know where I am going with this. ‘Tis the season of giving. Now, if there is one thing that Meg and I have tried to convey through this site, it’s that career fulfillment is, at best, a tenuous condition maintained through constant attention. It is not a product you can obtain or a position you can barter for, and by the same token it is not something you can give or grant to another person. But that does not mean you cannot help someone along in their journey. You might introduce someone to a valuable contact. You might mentor a junior colleague. You might agree to an informational interview with someone interested in your field. You are limited only by circumstance and your imagination.
True, the holidays are not the easiest time of the year to offer this kind of support; schedules are hectic, people are traveling. You’re probably going to have to carry this spirit of giving forward well into the new year. You’re going to need to keep your eyes open to opportunities to help, to connect, to train. You may even need to create such opportunities. Yes, it is another task to take on – to look for chances to help other people in their career struggles, even as you wrestle with your own. But I can tell you from experience that giving career help to other people rewards you in two ways. You’ll feel that humane satisfaction that accompanies any act of honest generosity, whether it’s tipping a few coins into the Salvation Army pot or taking a few minutes to guide a junior colleague through a politically difficult situation. And you’ll discover that, when you help someone else move closer to career satisfaction, you move closer to it yourself. May that be truly said of us, and of all of us!