“The World is Not a Meritocracy”: Here’s what it is instead

Breaking into your dream career (the one where you’re paid to live your passion) can seem like waiting to win the lottery. But it’s not necessarily about the luck of the draw. In a recent 99U article featuring an interview with Catie Lazarus, host of Employee of the Month, Lazarus points out that the world is in fact “not a meritocracy”, as well as the differences between what we can control and what we can’t when working toward career goals.

The Wrong Mindset

Part of the problem we get ourselves into is having ridiculous expectations. Many of us have career idols that seem to have reached success completely on their own, without having to rely on support from loved ones. We think that if we are good enough, it shouldn’t matter who we’re connected to, and we shouldn’t have to look to others for help getting interviews or valuable work experience.

Other common job misunderstandings to stay away from are:

  • Thinking that it’s all about nepotism
  • Underestimating the time it takes to settle into a job or field
  • Believing you know exactly what you want when you’ve never tried it or don’t understand all that it entails

Understanding What You Can Control

Lazarus has interviewed prominent celebrities such as Gloria Steinem. Lewis Black, and Jon Stewart on her show. Over the years, she has gleamed plenty of practical advice for people trying to break into their dream job.

In the 99U interview, she points out that getting to a successful and satisfactory place is complicated. Many people seem to be lost for years before they reach “success.” And surprise! That’s okay.

I think people underestimate how much time it requires to get to a place where you’re comfortable in your own skin or knowing what you want.”

She also points out that whether you have an in with daddy at your dream job or slowly and steadily build your way up, you have to know your stuff. She gives the example of SNL writer Simon Rich, whose parents were both successful writers, but he still had to learn how to write. It sounds obvious, but we shouldn’t underestimate the need to be skilled in our field.

Additionally, we should recognize the power of perseverance. She states, “The people we know about are the ones who persevere.” Sure, we are all victims of circumstance in a way, but most successful people ultimately got to where they are because they never stopped working toward it despite challenges.

The Value of Being Challenged

Take a look at where you are now compared to where you want to be, and then think about what step you can take right now to get closer.

Perhaps you have the know-how, experience, and surety that you’re in the right field. Are you ready to reach out for better connections that can pull you to the top?

Or maybe you’re still running around like a decapitated chicken, just trying to find your niche. It might be time to get some low-level, low paid experience in the field you think you’re interested in.

Or maybe you’ve been riding someone’s coattail for a while without truly honing your own skillset. If you ever want to fly solo, you have to step out of your comfort zone and master more than the basics.

Wherever you are on your journey to success, know that the hard parts have purpose. Lazarus herself is grateful for the ups and downs that led to her career.

“Because of how difficult that was, I now have a real sense of what it takes to succeed.”

Next Steps

Wherever you are, start there. This means being honest with yourself so you can figure out the most productive thing you can do next toward your career.

Feel free to give us a call today to know how to start applying these principals and getting the most out of your efforts toward your dream job.


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