Here are some synonyms for “innovation” I found when I Googled the definition of that word:
Innovation has been a buzzword for a while.
Change, alternation, upheaval, transformation, breakthrough—these aren’t buzzwords. All of those words, innovation included, are principles you need to continually apply to your career if you want to achieve what everyone is looking for out of their work: meaning.
And you will only find meaning if you continually push yourself to break through the walls in front of you. Here are a few ways to help do that:
1. Avoid a fixed mental model of who you are based on your title.
One of the biggest barriers to career growth is the mental straightjacket we place ourselves in based on what someone else allows us to put on our business card. Personally, I fell into this trap for a long time. I desperately wanted to say I was an Executive Director. The actual work and organization mattered less than the title. I wanted to tell other people that I was an Executive Director.
What it took me a while to realize is that
A. No one cared.
B. It made me sound like a jerk when I said it.
C. I wasn’t really happy.
Now I have no idea what to call what I do. My work involves doing a lot of different things, and doesn’t lend itself to just one title. But I am happier, and it feels more meaningful.
Titles are a part of corporate life, no matter how abstract or playful we try to make them. But don’t define yourself by them, whether you are a CEO or a Janitor—and if you find meaning in keeping the floor clean and dry so no one slips, then do that.
2. If your career decisions aren’t working, don’t be afraid to change.
When you commit to something in your career go all in – until you can see that it isn’t producing the results you had hoped for, and you no longer feel passionate enough about whatever it is to try and turn that around.
Think of yourself like a company and your career choices like a product. If a company came up with a new product that wasn’t selling they wouldn’t continue to produce it just because they said they would. If they did that the company would quickly be in trouble.
Innovative companies are willing to let ideas go, and aren’t afraid of change. You should approach your career the same way.
When you know it’s not working, start developing a plan that will help you transition to something that does work.
3. Constantly educate yourself, and create your own platform.
Don’t wait for someone else to pay for your professional development. Invest your money—and more importantly, your time—learning about what is you want to do. The amount of free education available online is stunning. Waiting for someone else to invest in you is like a company waiting for someone else to invest in the development of their next product.
Only you know what it is you really want to do. Only you know what will ultimately help you find meaning in your work.
And while you’re learning, start creating your own platform. A college education had a significant impact on my life, and I always wanted to work with universities to help students get a better ROI from their degree. As a result of my writing articles online, I now have the opportunity to do that. The power of a platform can help you do things that may not look possible at the moment—but you have the power to make them possible.
4. Be a complete person.
Spending at least 8 hours a day doing something that just pays the bills is a sad way to spend a third of your life, or more.
Insert some “upheaval” or “transformation” into your career, or any one of the words in the list at the start of this post, until you find what you’re looking for.
Along the way stop, take a moment, play Lincoln Logs with your kids, go on a date with your spouse, spend time with your friends, read a book that isn’t work related – be a complete person.
Doing that will make you “innovative” to the people that really matter.
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