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Golden Guide Career Advice: You Work for YOU

Lydia Lazar

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Golden Tip No. 23: Think of It as “Me, Incorporated.”

Golden Guide Career Advice is a series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Successful careers are deliberate creations. You must take a business–like approach to your career; anticipate the obvious challenges; make decisions rationally; and take proactive steps to ensure your success, happiness and financial well-being. Think of it as building a company that is called “Me, Inc.” If not you, then whom?

Even with a full-time job, it’s a good idea to go to work every day with the thought that you are always working for yourself. Despite the hype and excitement that surrounds joining teams within companies and organizations, in practical terms, it makes sense to stay focused on the fact that, ultimately, even when we are working for social good, we work for our own financial benefit and personal satisfaction.

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Financial advisors will tell you to skim off a portion of your paycheck to “pay yourself first” before you pay your bills. The idea is to capture some portion of your earnings automatically each pay period as a deposit to a savings account, 401(k) or IRA. Everyone needs a cash cushion for unexpected expenses (such as a surprise layoff or a car accident) and career-wise, you want to be able to fund your own skills development—especially if you are interested in developing a new set of skills, going back to school or learning a new subject area.

We are in the habit of saying we work “for” a company, since an employer pays us for our time and efforts. However, it’s important to recognize early in our working lives that while meeting our employer’s expectations is necessary to succeed in a particular position, what’s truly needed to succeed in life is to meet—and even exceed—our own personal expectations.

Most of the time, your personal and professional expectations are aligned. But you will have many jobs over the course of your career, and it is likely that you will have some less than perfect job experiences. Remember that your worth is not determined by your job, and you must build and enjoy a life outside of the workplace.

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash.


Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.