5 Steps to Achieve Career Success — Without ‘Selling Out’

This post is by Erica Dhawan, 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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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.

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  • http://www.brandrecruitment.co.uk Steve

    Some great points here, the most important being about not listening to others – it is up to you to decide what is selling out and what is not. Different people are motivated by different things.

    Really do think of what you want from life – your friends may want to have the best watch, the best car, yet that doesn’t mean you need to join them. Likewise maybe your friends are happy joining the ‘conveyor belt’ and working ‘everyday’ jobs simply to earn money to survive, yet you may have more ambition.

    Ambition doesn’t necessarily mean joining the corporate world (most of my successful friends have built their own businesses), yet if you need to join the corporate world to satisfy both your ambition and your financial and lifestyle needs, then so be it.

    If you find yourself in a job which you dread every day and find no satisfaction from, then, yep, maybe you are selling out. All jobs and businesses are going to have headaches yet it is up to you to find a vocation that gives you satisfaction and fulfillment.

  • http://MonsterWorking Lauritz

    I like 4 of the 5 points in “5 steps to career success without selling out”.Though point 3 overlooks an earned trust and respect from everyone else gets me in their loop so that it pays to listen to what everyone else is saying because they need me, and I don’t threaten their world. When it doesn’t pay to listen to everyone else its not them that I should worry about. It’s why do I somehow pose a threat to them when they should be who I can look to as best resources. After all, shouldn’t
    I get as much advantage back as I provide.

  • http://Monste.com Shar

    Thank you so much for this information. It was just what I needed at a time when I was just about to capitulate to outside pressures. I so needed to hear “…staying true to who you are.”

  • J Monaco

    I think Socrates phrased this more succinctly, as Plato recounted: “Know thyself”. I am probably jaded, but this seems to have been written from the perspective of a naive academician. Apologies in advance, if I am mistaken.

  • http://Yahoo Lynne Cunningham

    A question very common which appears on applications is”Why should we hire you?” Since time is a constant, I believe you should mention you use time and energy wisely!