Clocking Out: The Podcast about Finding Career Fulfillment

May 14, 2024 by Raymond Lee

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

How many times do you recall being asked this question by family, loved ones, or friends? I believe this simple question is one of the reasons why over 50% of people hate their jobs today. 

My mom was asked this question at an early age and, luckily for her, she landed in a career that truly brought her joy as an English teacher. My mom’s passion and joy was writing and reading, and she loved the idea of teaching kids English, in every sense of the subject. 

However, after eight years in her teaching career, she found herself divorced, a single mom of two boys, and living on a meager teacher’s salary. She decided to make a career switch and chose a career where the money was great, but the effects of the work had a negative impact on her over time. Because of my mom’s will to succeed and her passion for English, court reporting became an incredibly lucrative career for our family, despite her not loving the work. But she was truly great at it!

I recently read “Open” by Andre Agassi, the world-renowned tennis player who won eight grand slams and a gold medal. Andre was my favorite tennis player growing up, but the one thing I didn’t know about Andre and found disturbing was that he despised the sport. 

When asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” tennis was not Andre’s answer. His father had plans for Andre from an early age. He enrolled Andre in a tennis boarding school where Andre would play tennis morning, noon, and night.

I began to wonder, why does someone get into a career and find themselves never being able to claw their way out? 

What Is Identity Foreclosure?

It wasn’t until I came across the term of Identity Foreclosure in Adam Grant’s bestselling book “Think Again” that I really understood how the premature commitment an individual makes to their own identity impacts their future. Identity Foreclosure happens when we settle on a sense of self, without enough due diligence, and close our minds to our possible alternative selves.

This phenomenon is the unquestioning acceptance by individuals, usually adolescents, of a career, job, or goal that typically parents, teachers, or close friends have chosen for them. My mom didn’t foreclose on her identity as an English teacher, but she did as a court reporter for many of the reasons above.

In the book “Open”, Andre’s father determined that his son would be a star tennis player and he set a career path for his boy at a young age that would include sending him away to a tennis boarding school with countless hours of tennis training. This determination ultimately led to the foreclosure of his identity. 

It’s so interesting to think that, throughout our careers, we often foreclose on career identity as if we grow up and reach a finite point in our lives of who we are. According to Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future (IFTF), up to 85 percent of jobs that will exist 10 years from now haven’t even been invented yet. Companies like Uber, Slack, and TikTok didn’t exist over a decade ago. Freshman college students in 2017 were entering college when blockchain technology was just exploding globally. By their 2021 graduation, the pandemic alone created a massive shift in digital transformation and how work is done. 

How to Find Career Fulfillment

So the question is, how do you determine if you’ve foreclosed on your identity prematurely, and how can you unlock career fulfillment? 

We first should reframe the question from “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “What kind of an impact do you want to make?” or “What mark do you want to leave on the world?”

Adam Grant suggests we all should conduct routine career checkups to determine if we’re happy in our lives and careers. 

There are three questions we can ask ourselves to determine this:

1. Does your work make you feel alive?

2. Are you creating value for yourself and others?

3. Are you doing things that matter to you?

For Andre Agassi, these three questions led him to create the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education in 1994. He believes that parents, advocates, educators, and legislators have a responsibility to help children fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams. Late in his tennis career, Andre invested every dollar of his winnings in the foundation and shifted his identity from tennis player to philanthropist. 

For my mom, she decided after 25 years in the court reporting profession, in her early 50s, that she would go back to school to pursue a master’s degree in archaeology, a field she loved and was passionate about. In this new career, she was recruited to lead an archaeological dig on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that resulted from Hurricane Katrina. The location was a French Colonial burial site that gained attention from the national media and archaeologists around the world. Her work was later published in journals.

Unfortunately, shortly after her graduation and this project, my mom was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer and would end up leaving the world a couple of months later. Over the next decade, I struggled with understanding how this could happen so suddenly and at the age of 60. The one thing that I keep coming back to now is how proud I am that my mom found true career fulfillment and left this world doing what she truly loved, which was archaeology.

Clocking Out is a podcast dedicated to my mom that highlights individuals who have taken the leap of faith to follow their dreams of career fulfillment and live their best, most authentic life.

Illustration of a person with a headset, speaking into a microphone, next to text inviting viewers to share their career transformation stories on a show called "Clocking Out".

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee

Raymond Lee is the President of Careerminds, a global outplacement company based in Wilmington, Delaware. He has over 20 years of human resource, outplacement, and career consulting experience. He has his bachelor’s in psychology and holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University. He is active in SHRM and ATD. Raymond’s been featured on SiriusXM Business Radio, CareerTalk, and the Wall Street Journal and he’s published a book titled, Clocking Out: A Stress-Free Guide to Career Transitions.

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