As I’ve mentioned before, I often get asked for advice on how to opt out. And when people hear me speak, many get very excited about opting out, and about how things turned out for the people in my study. They dream of opting out too, and of adopting a new lifestyle where they can be freer.
Well I’ve thought about this a lot. Some people have suggested that I take up coaching and help others figure out what they want to do, and help them opt out so that they can do it. And when they suggest this I say hmm, ok I’ll think about it, but to be completely honest I say that mostly so that we can move on and talk about something else because I’m not an opting out coach and I don’t plan to become one.
Why is that you may ask. Please don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against coaching. On the contrary, coaching can be very helpful. I even wanted to become a coach at one point, and was going to get certified (a process that I never finished) and I have done a fair share of coaching myself as a part of my job in my previous career. I actually really liked coaching and in my current job I get to supervise students, which in a way is similar, and I like that too.
But an opting out coach I don’t think I will ever be. And the reason is I don’t necessarily believe that opting out of a career is an end in itself.
Now this may surprise you since I’m doing all this work on opting out and I have opted out myself. But people often mistakenly think that if you research something you are also advocating this very thing. And yes I find opting out fascinating; I love talking about it, after all I did it myself. But as I research opting out, I look at and analyze both the good and the bad; and with opting out there is both good and bad. So no, I am not trying to encourage everyone and anyone to opt out of their career.
If opting out is good for you then by all means do it. But we also have to recognize that not everyone wants to opt out, and not everyone can for whatever reason, and that has to be okay too. Besides, I don’t think having everyone opt out of their corporate career is necessarily a constructive, not to mention proactive, solution. Although organizations would have to react and start developing more sustainable working cultures if more and more people started opting out, wouldn’t it be even better if we had organizations and corporations that made it possible for people to set up ways of working so that they don’t want to opt out in the first place? Most of the women I have interviewed say that they never originally planned to opt out, and that if they had been able to they would have loved to continue doing what they were doing. So wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy the sense of authenticity, the coherence, and the control that my fellow opt outers have achieved and still be able to do the work we originally dreamed of?
So no, I don’t see myself coaching people on how to opt out. What I see instead is a future where I work with organizations to help them join the rest of us in the 21st century. What I mean is, I want to help them create mindsets that allow for different career models and real, sustainable, and individualized solutions for work so that they can become places of work that people don’t feel like they want or need to opt out of.
In the meantime, I’m doing my research, which I love and which I think is very important, because it’s going to give us a clue as to what it is these organizations need to do, develop, and provide in order to not to only attract but to also retain talented employees. And that, my friends, will have a long run positive impact on both the organizations as well as on everyone’s wellbeing.
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