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The Power of Independence for a Career on Your Terms

Happy 4th of July to all those celebrating Independence Day! As our American friends celebrate, we reflect on a career question each of us should ask: "Am I truly independent?"

Why is it important? Apart from the obvious benefits of making choices that align with your personal goals, there are also psychological advantages. When we feel in control, our self-esteem is higher, we become more creative, engaged, and less stressed. Independence, both physical and psychological, is beneficial as long as there is some structure and you make the best use of it.

In the work context, consider three aspects of independence: task, manager, and employer.

Task Independence: Do you have the right level of autonomy? Autonomy at work is a fundamental source of motivation, but it’s tricky. We all know the feeling of having too little autonomy: our creativity is stifled, micromanagement leaves us feeling untrusted, and the environment removes any opportunity for growth. However, too much autonomy isn’t the answer either; it can leave us feeling unsupported, overwhelmed, or ignored. Achieving task independence means finding the right balance between self-sufficiency and support. On a scale from 1 to 5, how task independent are you?

Manager Independence: Could you operate effectively if your manager weren’t there? Good managers are invaluable—they provide feedback, coaching, and professional growth opportunities. However, dependence on a single advocate is a career stopper. Do you have other sources of guidance and advice? Mentors and sponsors outside your manager? If not, you risk being dependent on the success or failure of one person. Ask yourself, on a scale from 1 to 5, how manager independent are you?

Employer Independence: Do you have employment choices? Companies, even the best, offer no guarantees. Your employer’s circumstances may change—or yours might. Maybe you need to relocate or lack advancement opportunities. It's crucial to ask, “Do I have an exit ticket?” An exit ticket means having options beyond your current employer. If you had to leave your job, how easily could you find a new one? In our new book, "Move Up or Move On," we teach the importance of multiplying your options. At any given time, you should be expanding your job opportunities both inside and outside your organization. Networking, side hustles, volunteering, or starting a podcast can all help. The more open you are, the more options you have—it's a numbers game! On a scale from 1 to 5, how employer independent are you?

Evaluate Your Independence

Look at your scores for these three elements. Which one needs your immediate attention? You might have optimal task autonomy because of a fantastic boss, but struggle if they leave. Or, your task and manager independence might be low, but high employability means you're already receiving offers from companies where you’ll be better appreciated and supported.

Here's to being a bit more independent every day. Here’s to a career on your terms! 

For those wanting more independence and a career on their terms, click the link to our new book, "Move Up or Move On."

Disclaimer: This blog expresses our personal opinions.  Not the view of any associated organizations.  

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