The reassuring message of ‘Great Work Great Career’ by Stephen R. Covey and Jennifer Colosimo (FranklinCovey Publishing) is that anyone can have a great career, irrespective of the line of work.
Defining great career
Much depends, however, on how you define ‘great career,’ the authors clarify. To them, a great career is all about solving great problems, meeting great challenges, and making great contributions, rather than aiming for fame or fortune.
“A great career does not rise from a need for outside affirmation, but from within you, from your own curiosity, from your own unique mix of talents and passion. It also rises from your conscience – from the whispers deep inside that point you to what you should do.” The two key dimensions of a great career, as Covey and Colosimo lay out, are the desire and skill to contribute, and a character worthy of the trust and loyalty of others.
Knowledge era vs industrial economy
Today’s knowledge era requires workers to ask questions, challenge old assumptions, and look at the old intractable problems of the world and come up with unique answers – unlike the industrial economy wherein one could do a job with one’s body even when the brain and heart weren’t committed to the job – the authors argue.
The authors also emphasise that knowledge workers are free to design their own life’s work, and to unleash their highest and best talents and passions. The book, therefore, elaborately discusses two questions, viz. ‘What will be your contribution?’ and ‘How will you make your contribution?’
The answer to the ‘what’ question is all about finding work that taps your talent, fuels your passion, and satisfies your conscience, the authors explain. They remind that it is best to start the journey with the end in mind. “When you come to the end of your career path and look back, what will you see – a history of great contributions, or aimless mediocrity?”
Sum up the best you have to offer
Urging you to get the picture clear in the mind before it can become real, Covey and Colosimo recommend a straightforward exercise: Prepare your ‘contribution statement’ summing up the best you have to offer to the challenges that excite you.
How would such a statement look like? Sample this ‘contribution statement,’ of Katherine Bicer, materials engineer, cited as an example: “If someone needs a helicopter to fly higher or faster than it does today, it’s up to me to find the materials that can take the heat and stress that kind of performance would put on a helicopter engine.”
Another example is of Dr Vidushi Babber, physician and educator, thus: “[Give] women the message that smart is beautiful… to prevent today’s looks-obsessed women from developing eating disorders… to encourage younger women that it’s about who you are as a person, not just about how you look.”
Job vs career
The authors share what they consider to be ‘one of the best contributions statements.’ It is written by Taylor Mali, a young schoolteacher, answering the question, what she ‘made’ in her teaching job: “You want to know what I make? I make kids work harder than they thought they ever could… I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be… I make kids wonder, I make them question… I make them write, write, write, and then I make them read…”
Of great value is the distinction that the authors highlight between ‘job’ and ‘career,’ thus: “People who are only looking for a job have résumés. People who are looking to make a great career have contribution statements.”
Prescribed read for anyone who is tired of ‘boring’ job.