Claiming Ownership over the Future

Unless you are born with a silver spoon, building a career requires effort. Careers do not just happen. They require work and integrity. I was reminded of this when I read ‘5 Ways to Advance Amid Dysfunction’ by Magnus Consulting. In her blog, Dana Theus writes a 5 step get-ahead-anyway to do list

  1. Accept
  2. Get clear
  3. Set my intention
  4. Speak my truth
  5. Build my personal power

The phrase which really spoke to me was ‘you need to learn to communicate at the deeper levels of principles and belief – to speak your truth’. Speaking your truth is a metaphor for finding your inner light and aligning it with your career. Like trees, both grow towards light. Again like trees, pruning is sometimes required. We come to junctions, make decisions, and learn more about ourselves in the process. Ultimately the journey is easier when our careers and inner selves are in sync. But life is not simple. Careers are not easy. Points of inflection are not without angst and sometimes pain.

Two personal examples come to mind. The first was as a young assistant professor. Two esteemed professors, who had influence over my promotion and tenure approval, asked me to contribute to a team grant submission. I was thrilled to be asked and frightened to my core because I could not meet expectations at the time. They called a meeting to finalize responsibilities and timelines for the grant deadline. With my heart pounding, I informed the team members at the meeting that I could not participate because I could not meet expectations. The room went silent. I thought my world had ended. They accepted my statement, the meeting progressed, and the subject was never mentioned to me again. To this day, I believe my actions were justified. More importantly, I believe my status was elevated to that of a peer. Imagine, my most frightening action earned respect. More importantly, it contributed to my personal power: the power to speak on my behalf, and to control my destiny.

The second example occurred recently. A recruiter called me regarding a senior management position in a global food company. It is a great job. But as the opportunity was presented, I realized that my current role in nutrition science and advocacy is my personal power. I love being externally focused and having the opportunity to bring my experience in academics, the food industry, and now the ingredient manufacturing industry to provide perspective on nutrition science and policy. It satisfies me to be given an opportunity to shape nutrition conversations through, twitter (@dsmnutrition) and facebook (TalkingNutritionDSM).

This is not to say my career is not complete. But Dana’s blog reminded me that my future is my responsibility. My future is mine to make, not a reward from my boss. The door to my future is in front of me. Courage may be required to move towards that door. But the power must be found within myself to open the door, and step forward. It is the same for everyone.

About Michael McBurney

Personal Blog | Nutrition scientist with broad interests, including social media and the impact of open access journals on science publishing | Self-employed freelancer
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