HYPE speaker Crystal Kadakia: Conquer career fears for fulfilling life

Crystal Kadakia served as this year’s 2nd HYPE Speaker. She has “been an adult for 16 years now,” and in those past 16 years, she has developed her passion for problem-solving and building bridges to become an expert in organizational change. Her talk for Heidelberg students this morning got them imagining and thinking about how they should approach their careers to ultimately become who they want to be.

In order to get to the end of one’s career as a happy, fulfilled person, they need to have the right approach to beginning their career. According to Kadakia, this means addressing the three career fears that all people have:

•    Career Growth
•    Career Longevity
•    Career Fulfillment

By mastering these fears, “you can become undeniable,” Kadakia shared.

Career Growth

When Kadakia worked at Proctor and Gamble right after college, she noticed a typical new-hire mistake: asking for a promotion within the first year. “People right out of school think that your career is like school, where you study hard, get the grade, and then move up to the next level at the end of a quarter, semester or year,” Kadakia explained “But in real life, you have to learn to not rely on rewards from authorities in the same way – you have to appreciate the journey.”

Not only is it annoying for your manager to deny you within the first year of your employment, but promotions come with more than just a raise. Promotions mean that more responsibility is necessary, and more results are expected. “When people chase that before they’re ready, they get imposter syndrome.” In that way, keeping with that pattern that became so familiar in school hurts both the organization as well as the employee. 

Many choose the opposite path and keep their nose to the grindstone without any expectation of growth in their career or reward. They work hard and are ignored. But there is a happy medium that addresses the fear of career growth. By choosing to accelerate one’s competence, and strategically leveling up their skills, they accelerate the path that they take on their way to become who they’re meant to be, without relying on a company structure or external rewards.

When Kadakia was looking to leave her 9-to-5, she knew that she had to build more credibility before she could break into the world of organizational consulting. She knew that the most credible folks in her mind were known public speakers, so public speaking was a skill she needed to build. She began by giving a talk to a small professional association conference, for around 30 people. But the next time she was asked to speak, it was for a TED Talk. She learned a great deal more about public speaking when she was preparing for her TED Talk, and continued to delve into that world after her talk was over, as a skill she knew she needed to continue to refine. But it got her first consulting job at an accelerated rate because she broke down who she wanted to be in the future, first.

Career Longevity

The career fear of longevity involves the anxiety of if one is stable in their career and can expect to keep it for a long time. Lots of people pick a major, or pick a strength, and decide that that’s how they’ll make money. They hone only that skill and grind it out until they reach the top of their ladder – until the ladder starts to shake.

When Kadakia began doing career coaching, she expected to have people her age asking how to advance, but what she was met with were Boomers and Generation X’ers who didn’t know how to change. Her advice to avoid this problem is simple: “Don’t focus so much on your brand that you believe you can’t change it.” 

At the end of the day, choosing a strength and following it until it ends can only get you as far as that rope. But, by introducing your intersectionality into your work life, you can find yourself with a web of strengths to trace that you’re passionate about. Kadakia began as a chemical engineer and now is a public speaker. Those are titles, but don’t identify the strengths that make Kadakia who she is. As young as 6, Kadakia was solving problems and trying to build bridges with others, trying to understand the good things about cultures that weren’t her own. Being good at solving problems and connecting with others are part of Kadakia’s intersectionality: they are the strengths and passions that will follow her wherever she goes. So, she went from solving problems as an engineer to solving problems as an expert in organizational change.

This great self-awareness and a better understanding of one’s own strengths requires connecting your own dots. If you can connect your own dots, and explain to someone else why what you were doing before applies to what you’re doing now, every experience becomes more valuable and marketable. You are better able to chase your passions that won’t tie you down.

“So when somebody asks you what you’ll do with your degree, think harder – there’s a lot you can do out there,” Kadakia said. “Your problem is not that there’s only one thing you’re good at, it’s that there are so many problems in the world, and you have to choose which you want to solve right now. It’s your choice, and it’s a huge advantage.” By focusing on growing all of your skills and being great at everything you’re good at, you build a resilience – you can transcend fields or industries or problems.

Career Fulfillment

When people worry about career fulfillment, they worry if they are made happy by what they do. Kadakia’s solution is age-old: focus on enough. 

“Scarcity is a bad place to be in,” Kadakia said. “It creates a lot of anxiety. But there is a point of excess, of more-more-more that creates that same anxiety.” It’s easy to be caught in the loop of consumption, but that cycle eats away at the ability to have everyday joy. That cycle of consumption spends the most limited resources we have: energy and time. “We spend our life consuming instead of just enjoying the experience,” Kadakia said, “so you have to build an inner compass for enough.” 


Of course, Kadakia is all for pursuing your goals and dreams, even if those involve material possessions. “If your dream is to have two houses and 3 cars, that’s fine – I’m not saying don’t chase the money. But what I am saying is that, once you get there, take some time to drive your car.” 

Heidelberg extends a huge thank you to Kadakia for helping to guide our students to use their careers to further their own purposes, and to enjoy life in the downtime.

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