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The 3 C's of Career Changes

When we talk to people about their careers and the changes they may want to make, we often bring up the three C's of work life: Content, Control and Compensation.




On the face of it, these seem like three obvious buckets to consider when evaluating your job, whether it's time to stay or go, what type of role is best for you and how to find satisfaction and success in work. Yet hidden inside those categories are some very sticky and tricky questions to ask yourself, and be totally and brutally honest about, because it is the rare job that provides the exact right blend of all three for any given person.


CONTENT This seems obvious, as it is the stuff work is made of: your industry, whatever it is that your company or organization does, makes or contributes, and the nature of your specific role inside that company or organization. This is the content of your job. What you do and think about all day. Sometimes we compromise on the content of work in order to get the right balance of control and/or compensation. When you consider the other two factors of compensation and control, what are you willing to compromise on in the content of your job? Content is often the factor people are speaking about when they say they want to make more of a difference in the world. You can make a difference and do good and make a lot of money - yet those jobs don't fall from trees. To get your dream content role, you may have to compromise somewhere else in the short term.


COMPENSATION Getting paid is in the definition of a "job" - a paid position of employment. Few people are in the position of working for free, and honestly, even if you can afford it, we would recommend against it. Being paid for work you do is an invaluable part of self-esteem as well as a very necessary part of survival. Different industries and jobs vary wildly in terms of compensation norms. However, the highest paying jobs often come with strings in terms of content and certainly control. Wall Street wizards are paid a fortune yet live and die at the hands of the market. Even top CEOs give up a fair amount of control of their lives to have those jobs. Compensation is very important and only you know your magic number. The number at which your expenses are comfortably covered and you are willing to work for, regardless of content and control. Giving up on either content or control might mean you can expect and look for more compensation.


CONTROL This bucket often gets overlooked, yet it is critical to work-life balance and for many women especially, is the #1 priority related to their current role. You may not be 100% thrilled by widgets, but Widget Inc. gave you the VP title and lets you work from home on Fridays, so the job works for you. Control is about flexibility as well as the extent to which you get to call the shots about the content of your work. Working parents sometimes aren't in the position to take a role that requires a lot of travel or unpredictable late nights, so they may sacrifice in another area, like content or compensation, in order to get the opportunity to have flexibility for their family life.


When thinking about your next career move, be very honest with yourself about what you can and will compromise around. While it would be a dream job to get the exact balance of content, control and compensation you want, most likely there will be some amount of compromise involved. Knowing deep inside yourself which is most important to you will help you feel good about the choices you are making in your job. Often in our work lives these three factors rise and fall and shift places in prominence many times over our careers. The goal is finding the right job, for you, right now. As we have all seen, things change on a dime, so sometimes we need to pivot in place.


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