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Be the CEO of ‘You, Inc.’

The old model of career progression—where one might start at the bottom and stay with the same company for decades—is becoming a relic of the past. Job hopping is much more common, and side hustles and gig work are mainstream. This change in the landscape of work invites us to adopt a new perspective on how we view our careers and, by extension, ourselves.

The Evolving Concept of Careers

Would you want to take life advice from your 18 year old self?

Gone are the days when a career path was linear and predetermined by early choices. Whether it was the major you declared at 18 or the decision to enter the workforce straight out of high school, these early decisions no longer dictate the trajectory of your entire professional life.

Today, career mobility across different industries and roles is not just possible; it's often encouraged. This flexibility is empowering—it allows individuals to pursue a path that aligns with their evolving interests and skills rather than sticking to a predetermined script.

After high school, I went to college the next fall to major in political science as a stepping stone to a law degree. I made it a semester and a half before I got bored with the whole concept and joined the US Air Force instead.

After 6+ years in the Air Force, I got out and went into sales—working with my father and his Money Mailer direct mail franchise. Eventually, I switched gears and went into IT, which morphed into cybersecurity. I started writing as a side hustle just for the visibility and resumé fodder, and eventually that took on a life of its own and I somehow became an author, journalist, and marketing expert.

Embracing the CEO Mindset in Your Career

Not everyone will start their own business or work as a freelancer, but everyone can benefit from viewing themselves as the CEO of their own career—what we might call "You, Inc." This mindset shift is crucial for several reasons:

  • Value-Based Work: As the CEO of "You, Inc.," you recognize that your compensation should be based on the value you provide, not merely the hours you log. This understanding pushes you to seek roles and opportunities where your contributions are recognized and rewarded, enhancing both job satisfaction and career development.

  • Self-Value: Embracing your role as CEO means valuing your own work and contributions. It's about knowing your worth and seeking out environments that respect and enhance that worth.

When you’re an employee, part of understanding your value is recognizing that the employer isn’t doing you a favor. It is a relationship—a partnership—that involves a 2-way exchange. Neither the company nor your manager should be able to dictate terms.

I frequently think about a time when I was working at EDS and I was putting in a request to take vacation. I went to the manager who needed to approve the time off and started to explain where I was going and what I was doing on my vacation, and he cut me off. He explained that I earned the PTO hours and the company owed me the time, and that it is none of his business what I do with them.

He told me that I need to change my mindset, and not feel like I owe my manager or the company an explanation to justify why I want to use PTO I have already earned. That lesson stuck with me and I have passed it down to my children. Now, I am sharing it with you as well.

The Fluidity of Life and Career Choices

Life is not static, and neither should your career be. Many people find new paths later in life, sometimes through unexpected circumstances like layoffs, or through deliberate choices like pursuing a passion project or side hustle. These shifts are not just changes in what you do; they represent an active management of your career portfolio, diversifying your experiences and skills just as a savvy CEO diversifies their company's assets.

Go back and look at my path. College to military service to sales to IT to cybersecurity to writing and marketing. If I asked you to map out how to get from high school to being the Chief Marketing Officer of a cybersecurity startup, I highly doubt the path you would envision would look anything like mine.

Be Your Own Safety Net

Over the last decade, I have always maintained a side hustle. Partly because I enjoy the work and it helps me to stay connected and engaged and partly because it provides me a safety net. Layoffs today seem to be more of a matter of when than if, and severance packages seem to have withered to anemic levels. Having the side hustle to fall back on has enabled me to provide for my family and keep the lights on while I pursue a new opportunity.

One of the things that drew me to GTG.Online is the GTG Buddy Program and being able to empower others to be their own safety net. Building a community where we all support each other and offering people a way to make good money while also helping organizations improve their email security and defend against phishing, business email compromise (BEC) and ransomware is a win-win-win.

You Are Always in Charge

Whether you are working for someone else or setting up your own shop, the fundamental truth remains: you are the CEO of "You, Inc."

This role doesn't come with a corner office in every job, but it does come with the responsibility to manage your career proactively, make strategic decisions, and continue to grow personally and professionally. Understanding and embracing your value is not just about economic benefit—it's about making choices that align with your aspirations and foster long-term fulfillment.

Remember, in the corporation of your life, you are always the CEO.

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