Recently, I led a career coaching workshop for four incredibly accomplished women at Harvard. They were worried about finding careers and making their way in work and life as they headed towards graduation. Specifically, they wanted to be able to “make money without selling out.” And they’re not the only ones saying this — I hear this more than ever today in an environment that praises do-gooder creatives and laments bureaucrats and bankers.
Want to make money without selling out? Here are the steps to make it happen:
Recognize your own true value. The first step is to understand your own self-worth. What makes YOU valuable? This runs counter to what we’ve been taught — asking ourselves how we can be valuable to others and serve others’ needs. Instead, answer the question: how can you serve your purpose in the world? Everything is about creating value for people, and the first step is recognizing your own value and your own willingness to be heard and watch yourself shine. What does this really look like for you? You have a skill, an area of expertise. You’re not selling out by asking for more or doing more.
Stop listening to everyone else. Sometimes, listening to everyone keeps you mediocre. Universities tend to promote a traditional career path because it makes them look good and keeps their alumni database of full-time careers high. They keep students so busy in classes and exams that there is little space to truly discover what they want to do in their life. Think about what makes you so excited that you can barely stand it — then, go DO that.
Don’t worry about what others have; start with what you need. Only you declare what you want and what you need. I won’t have extravagant dinner with my banker friends, but I will invite them for to my place for tea instead. Make your own choices on what you need. For financial issues in particular, I use Mint and LearnVest and my own budget to manage my timelines and make sure I’m not compromising my financial needs.
Make good use of your energy, not your time. I don’t believe in managing time, I believe in managing energy. Time is a constant. Don’t waste your energy when you can’t afford to. People love free resources, so give when you can and be honest when you can’t. Sometimes, saying “no” is actually part of serving both someone else and yourself.
Realize that ”selling out” is a BS term. Remember, only you determine if you’re “selling out” or not; no one else can determine that for you. I believe the better word to use is “serving” — when you are giving your resources to the world in ways that are valuable and supportive to others. Just focus on serving and staying true to who you are!
Erica Dhawan is a globally recognized leadership expert, Gen Y keynote speaker, consultant and researcher at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Her work with Gen-Y change agents and future-thinking companies changes the world. Learn more at ericadhawan.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.