Career advice that works for you.

Yo ho, is a Pirate’s Life for You?

Posted on September 23, 2009 by Emily Bardeen

I have pirates on the brain. Swashbuckling pirates. First there was Talk Like a Pirate day, then  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl   played a million times on cable and now I’ve got that pirate song stuck in my head. It’s the one they sing at the top of their lungs while happily hoisting mugs of grog:

“Yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!”

I ask you, who has a happier career than a pirate? No one. They are the poster children of career satisfaction.  And why? Because they are absolutely, positively, perfectly suited to being pirates.  It is not just that they have superior pirate skills or that they love their pirate job duties. Those things are important, but there’s more to it than that. 

There is a lot of similarity between that career-satisfied pirate’s individual  needs, preferences and values and the Big Picture Pirate LIFE.  Think of LIFE as lifestyle - the ways things are done when you’re a pirate – rules and customs that affect not only your professional pirate career, but also your personal lifestyle.

You can get a sense of these rules and customs in the pirate culture, people, environment, values – even the dress code (very, very, very casual).

For example: Life on the open sea? I’m an outdoor guy. Danger? my middle name. 100% travel – no time for family? not a problem. Work with murderers and thieves? my brothers! Rob from the rich and keep for ourselves? the code I live by!  Pirate career heaven.

What about you? When was the last time you hoisted a mug of grog and sang  “Yo, ho an accountant’s life for me” (metaphorically speaking). Can you barely manage a creaky whisper? Perhaps you’re a pirate with chronic seasickness, small children or a sense of fair play.

You’re perfectly normal. Everybody, even pirates, experience some degree of career dissatisfaction at one time or another. It’s even predictable. The trick is to put your finger on the cause.

More times than not, career dissatisfaction lurks among the intangibles – culture, values, people, etc.   To discover some of the causes of your career dissatisfaction, try this:

  1. Write down your best guesses about what’s causing your career dissatisfaction – be specific.
  2. Over the next couple of weeks, when you experience dissatisfaction (at home or at work)  related to your career, write it down – be specific.  (Ex:  had to work all weekend again – I’m missing my kids’ childhoods;  values – 3rd time I’m not ethically onboard with corporate’s directions;  so bored – I could do invoices in my sleep.)  When you start repeating the same experiences, you’re done.
  3. Review your notes and summarize your findings to identify the themes of your career dissatisfaction. Compare your findings to your initial guesses - how close were you? Is your career dissatisfaction in the skills, job or LIFE? How does your career line up with the professional and personal factors that are important to you? Do you detect any opportunities for re-alignment?

At the end of day, it’s YOUR LIFE.  If you are looking for career satisfaction (and not everybody is, can or must), YOUR career should meet YOUR needs, and not the other way around.  By taking a first step to name your career dissatisfaction, you’ve given yourself a lot of power.  Next, it is your choice whether you want to take any action on what you’ve learned, and if so – what?  And being intentional is very powerful.  But that’s another post.   

Let me know how things are going for you – I’m interested.


2 to “Yo ho, is a Pirate’s Life for You?”

  1. Viviana says:

    This is fabulous!! I love the pirate parallel–what a great illustration.

    Many years ago, right after college, I was that seasick pirate. A dear friend said, “If we all have a set of 10 keys, I would say that only 2 or 3 of yours fit into your locks.” It really helped me to stop trying to force a fit, and instead expend my energy finding a job that was a better fit.

  2. Mike Garin says:

    This great, it really sets the tone of how I feel about where I am and where I am going, new career wise.

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