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Is Yours a Sustainable Career?

29 September 2020

For something to be sustainable you need to be able to maintain it at a certain rate or level.  That is, it needs to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future.  Sustainability as a concept is well known in terms of economic sustainability and our relationship with our environment, but it is also a concept that can be applied to career. 

When you have a sustainable career there is long term sustainable balance between you and the environment around you (what you need, what the world needs, and what the world will pay for).  

The following are elements that have been used as markers of a sustainable career.  

You can integrate your career with the demands and needs you have in other life domains (e.g. family, friends, learning, leisure)

What you do in career aligns with your personal values

You have enough stability and security to meet your economic needs

You have the capacity to adjust career levers (e.g. the load you have, the location you work, times you work, the focus of your career, the intensity at which you work) in light of the changing needs and interests you have

You regularly rejuvenate your skills, knowledge, experience, and opportunities

You have the capacity to change and craft the work you do to meet the needs of both yourself and your employer

Career doesn’t negatively impact on your physical and psychological health

Are there other markers you would want to see your own career as being sustainable?

Sustainability isn’t static and there is give and take over time.  Small periods of unsustainability may set you up for longer term sustainability.  For example, you may take on a role that doesn’t completely align with your values for a short period to gain experience that you can’t get elsewhere.  On the flip side periods of sustainability can lay the foundation for short bursts of less sustainable career activities. 

Career sustainability changes over time and in different environments.  Take some time now to give yourself a score against each element.  Then come back to the list over time (maybe when you do your 6-monthly career maintenance) and see how you track.  

As always, wishing you a flourishing career.


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