Did you know you can have your lawn spray painted green? Instead of planting, fertilizing, watering, cutting and babying your lawn, just spray paint it. I am sure it looks just as good as real grass, aren’t you? I am being sarcastic; I’d imagine everyone can clearly see your lawn has been painted and isn’t actually thriving. So, what does all of this have to do with a young pro’s career? Surprisingly, I think lawn painting serves as a great analogy for how many of us approach our careers.

Grass

I’ve been at the Society – my first big-girl job – for seven years. In these seven, professional years, I’ve come to realize that some common nuggets of wisdom young pros hear again and again (and ignore) is actually pretty valid. The grass is not always greener on the other side; the future is what you make it. It’s cheesy; I know. It’s so cheesy I am sure some of you are inclined to stop reading now, but bear with me.

My generation, I think for the first, real time in American history, was expected to go and graduate college. It became a given. K-12, what? It’s K-undergrad, period. Our parents talked about it, some lucky people’s parents planned for it and we went. Then, we graduated, got a job in the field of our desired discipline and FREAKED OUT. At least I did. I felt really out of control. One day on my three mile drive into work, I thought, “Is this it? Get up. Go to work. Go home. Repeat for 50 more years.” And I like(d) my job!

The truth is, I felt this way because no one talked to me about building a career – I think they thought they did when they mandated college. But, that’s not something that’s covered when you earn your bachelor’s degree. No one ever really asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” wanting a truthful answer. And, I hadn’t given it a lot of real thought. I just figured I’d stumble into it. I think many of us have had the same experience. This has turned us into a generation left searching for a perfect job, instead of a perfect career, which in turn leaves us job hopping. Unfortunately the paint eventually fades again and it’s revealed that the grass isn’t greener. The cycle begins anew. It’s a vicious cycle, and many young pros waste much of their early careers stuck on repeat.

A recent article on forbes.com paints young pros as job hopping nightmares that HR needs to prepare for! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be “prepared for.” An approach such as this speaks to the fact that employers are failing to help their staff end the cycle, which really isn’t in their best interests either. Instead of preparing for young pros to bolt, employers should be sitting young pros down and showing us how to build careers we’re happy with. I was lucky to have employers who did just that. There was a point in my career where I made a conscious decision to become an association professional – not just a journalism major working a communications job.

Maybe you’ve already figured this all out, but I can’t tell you how many friends have said, “if I could just find another job doing what I am doing now, minus that awful part, I’ll be set.” They assume that then it will just magically happen, and they will start to build a career. The truth is that is really not how it works. Planning for a career is about more than liking your job. It is hard work. It involves planning. Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gets it right when he says, “begin with the end in mind.” He explains that a mental creation must come first. Otherwise, you allow other people and circumstances to shape you and your life. Those of us young pros who do not take that initiative to first build the mental creation of our careers are simply painting our lawn again and again instead of planting new seeds in hopes of growing a 100% authentic career.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about how to begin the hard work of building a career by beginning with the end in mind, consider attending our Young Pros Conference on May 17 where we’ll explore this topic in depth.