We definitely need to update our thinking about retirement – I personally hate what the term has come to represent – but we also need to hit the refresh button about the word career. Career, I like to remind people, is not a noun; it’s a verb. It requires our continual attention and management over a lifetime.

I say this over and over because it’s true, and because most people actually do think their career is a noun, a thing they picked off a shelf of careers one day, and for that reason, it should work for them for the rest of their lives. Then they feel bad, as if they did something wrong, when it doesn’t work anymore. Should this really come as a surprise? Don’t we know that times change, we change, the marketplace changes, and – woops – the plot thickens?

Years ago, in preparation for a talk I was giving, curiosity led me, once again, to the dictionary for definitions of the word ­career. As I waded through the dense lines of small print, I was thrilled to discover there actually was a verb form of the word, albeit antiquated. To career, in the antiquated nautical sense, meant swift movement of a vessel through water. The example given was, The ship is careering (not careening, by the way) through the ocean with ease and speed; also, The ship was in full career.

Full career is the direction in which we should all be heading, and beyond that, to full life. Should we really be pained or shocked or depressed because we hit rough waters? Challenging weather conditions? There are always actions to be taken, moves to be made, and navigators to help.

A Handful of Evolving Clients

I am working with a particularly fabulous cluster of clients right now, all of whom are of different ages, in different stages, and facing different challenges, but all of them, I would say, are evolving, changing, and developing toward fuller, deeper, richer, and more satisfying careers and lives. That’s why they sought me out, and that’s the work we are doing together. Here is a handful:

  1. A lovely young woman in her late 20’s who has been in nursing for eight years and definitely wants out. It’s just not 
what she wants to be doing for the rest 
of her life.
  2. A brilliant 35-year-old scientist at a prestigious university in southern California who has put all of his time and energy into getting where he is, to the neglect of the rest of his life. Will he ever have fun again? Marry? Have children?
  3. A highly exceptional, accomplished, 48-year-old teacher who has hit the wall with teaching. She has many gifts and talents and has reached what she sees as a do or die place in her life. If she doesn’t at least implement one of her business ideas, she’ll never forgive herself.
  4. A 41-year-old mechanical engineer who has been working on a fascinating documentary film that has legs. She has been accepted for consideration by a foundation that funds similar projects, and we are doing interview preparation. She wants to move out of engineering and into her passion full time.
  5. An attorney in her late 30’s who is having a baby in the fall. She wants to use this major life change as an opportunity to evolve her career and is considering several possibilities. We are thinking through them together, gaining clarity as we go.
  6. A 52-year-old executive sales professional who just landed the best job of his entire career! This is the third successful transition I’ve helped him with over the past 12 years. Each transition led to the next best step.

Through these compelling conversations and this work, I, too, am living my dreams. I guess you could say I am in full career.

Our dear Bonnie Bonetti-Bell was the force behind our Career/Life Coaching services, until her passing in 2019. As a principal of our firm, Bonnie had an innate talent for seeing the best in people. Moreover, she helped others see the best in themselves. Bonnie is fondly remembered and deeply missed.

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