Are you babysitting your career or are you parenting your career?

[Editor: Toby and I got into a little conversation about “babysitting vs. parenting,” and how that analogy applied to employees and careers and whatnot. He was taking it from a managerial perspective and I was taking it from a career perspective. So, guess what? We’re both going to post on the topic. Here’s his take on parenting versus babysitting from the managerial perspective.]

Are you babysitting your career or are you parenting your career? Better yet, about what, exactly, am I babbling?

Although you might not think about it in these terms, there are many levels of participating in your own career. Much in the same way that there are different ways of providing care for a child. I’d break it out in sweeping generalizations like this (from least involved to most involved):

  • Babysitter. Babysitters have rules and responsibilities outlined by someone else. They do little in terms of criticism or growth. Their primary focus is ensuring that nobody gets hurt and that everything remains at status quo, so that when the boss returns, everything seems the same. They may resort to unfulfilling and noneducational activities in order to keep control. They place no expectations on the charge. Babysitters tend to be motivated by short-term gains like monetary rewards and suppressing tantrums.
  • Daycare. Daycares are slightly more participatory in the process. They take on other’s rules, but they also work to establish their own. They provide some criticism and direction on growth, but it is highly generalized, applying to a lowest common denominator. Their primary focus is ensuring that the group, as a whole, remains under observation and control. Often, daycare will incorporate some lower-level educational activities as a means of furthering the individual. They place lowest-common-denominator expectations on the charge. Daycares tend to motivated by the long-term monetary rewards of continued participation but realize that every lost opportunity has a waiting list behind it.
  • Nanny. Nannies tend to be highly participatory in the process. They have their own rules that are interpretations of parental guidelines. They provide constructive criticism and discipline, often very targeted at the individual. Their primary focus is a balance between ensuring that the charge receives the appropriate guidance and ensuring that the charge remains comfortable with the oversight of the psuedo-parent. They place moderate to high expectations on the charge, based on their previous experience with other charges. Nannies tend to be motivated by a true desire to mentor and assist in the rearing of the child, coupled with the lifestyle afforded by the employment, be that monetary and/or schedule.
  • Parent. Parents are deeply involved in the rearing process. They make the rules and set the goals. They provide personalized constructive criticism for each charge and are ultimately responsible for all discipline, whether meted out by a proxy or not. Their primary focus is helping mold the individual in a positive and meaningful way, in hopes of ensuring that individual’s future success. They place high to unrealistic expectations on the charge, usually based on their own hopes and dreams. The parents are motivated by emotional rewards, both the love of the child and the perception of the public.

Now, granted, those are very, very general. But you get the drift.

Think about your career as if it were a child. Now, think about how you care for that child. Where do you fall?

Me? I tend to go through the list in reverse. I start out as a parent, but then as I become more and more disenchanted, I move to being a babysitter for my career. Trying to keep from rocking the boat.

But, as a manager, I always try to be a nanny for others’ careers.

Does this analogy do anything for you? Shed any new light on how you manage your career? Let’s hear it.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Criticism, Goals, Involvement, Mentoring. Bookmark the permalink.

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