From an early age, your teachers, parents and mentors likely encouraged you to pick a career path. Each of them probably having a specific vision for what you should grow up to be. Perhaps they put pressure on you or let you choose the direction but once on your path they dictated that you stay the course. And so you did.
And now, here you are. 10, 15, 20 years down the line having followed the path you set out on wondering “how the heck did I get here”? Or even bigger “Is this what I really want to be doing with my career”?
It used to be that you chose a degree that would set you up in a particular field, chose a company where you could settle in, work hard and climb your way to the top, and then you’d put 30 + years in, retire and walk away with your pension or at least a gold watch.
Not so anymore.
The working world has changed. And yet so many of professionals feel trapped under old standards. It’s time for an entirely new perspective on your career path.
It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey.
Cliché I know. But stay with me.
When I chose my college major, neither facebook, twitter nor the iPhone existed. Online shopping wasn’t a thing. We used Mapquest instead of GPS. And just 15 years later, entire industries have been erected that that previously didn’t exist; at the same time the likelihood that an employee will stay in one function at one company for five or more years has drastically declined.
So this starts to bring into question – why are we still so hung up on walking a straight line to a predetermined destination?
What if it wasn’t about the destination?
If you’ve ever been asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You’ve probably experienced confusion, panic and fear about what the question truly means.
The suggestion that there is just one destination for your career sounds like a bit of a stretch doesn’t it? A perfect job that combines all of your interests, talents and passions at once and will be engaging enough for you to show up for the next 10-40 years, seems entirely unrealistic.
Our culture obsesses over finding your true calling. People who’ve found the answer are celebrated, while the rest of us are left questioning, “what’s wrong with me?”
It’s not you, it’s the question.
“What do I want to be when I grow up?” is an overwhelming question to try to answer when you don’t have all of the information. Being in a state of overwhelm is not going to help you find the answer, so let’s change the question.
It’s all about the journey.
As with everything else in life, your career will most likely not follow a linear path. From your first job to the day you retire, you’re embarking on a journey and every journey comes with twists, turns and detours. The bumps and u-turns along the way are part of the process and in reality – often will lead you to a greater destination than you could have dreamed of. If you pay attention.
When you talk to someone who’s really engaged in their work, rarely will they tout loving it because of achieving a certain title or pay grade (although there are a few of those out there). More likely, you’ll hear about all the cool stuff they’ve been able to work on, the great people they’ve worked with and the crazy challenges they’ve overcome. They’ll tell you about the experiences that stand out.
Experiences (not an ultimate job title) make up the modern career path.
If change is calling you, stop pondering what you want to be when you grow up, and start asking yourself what experiences you want to have in your career journey.
And then as if you were planning for the trip of a lifetime, make a list of:
• what you want to learn
• the things you want to try out
• the types of people you want to work with
• the challenges you want to overcome
• the people you want to serve
Let this list serve as the guiding light for your career journey.