I believe that one’s career is a journey, and through a combination of assessment, exploration, planning and a bit of chance, my journey has led me to the field of career management. As I’ve developed knowledge and experience in the field, I’m ever more fascinated by it. Fact is, I’m also often frustrated, or maybe the better word is disappointed, by the limitations of both individuals and companies in the way they think and act with respect to career management.
So I’ve decided to take action, in the way of a blog. My goal is to influence individuals and ultimately organizations to shift their thinking. I’m going to share my thoughts about career, career management, career development (whatever you want to call it), and I’m going to tell stories that will illustrate what’s possible, what the obstacles are, and what lessons can be learned. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.
Today I’ll tell you about a journey. Last year I celebrated a “milestone” birthday, and to mark this event my husband and I took a trip; a journey that had been on my list a long time, to the Oregon coast. If you haven’t driven the west coast highway through Oregon down to San Francisco, I’d encourage you to put it on your list. But that’s not really my point.
My journey to Oregon represents a good model for career development, that’s my point. Before we left home, we did a lot of research about the area we were headed to. We read books, we went online, we talked to people who had been there. We had a good sense of some of the areas we wanted to see and things we wanted to do, but we didn’t have a daily itinerary. We wanted to leave things loose enough so that if something along the way looked interesting, we’d have time to take it in. Make no mistake – I’m a planner. I don’t go with the flow as easily as some, so we had a plan, and all the tools (the map, the GPS, the CAA accommodation guide), but we left it flexible – I’d describe it as a “rolling plan”.
By leaving the plan flexible, we removed the need to reach a destination every day, which opened us up to experience everything along the way. Had we had a more defined plan, we would have missed some of the detours and side roads that were some of the most amazing parts of the trip, like Stinson Beach, for instance.
What does this have to do with career? Traditionalists still define career as a path or a ladder, not a journey, even though in many organizations and in many careers it’s no longer realistic to define it in this step by step, linear way. Defining career as a ladder can be very restricting, when there aren’t that many rungs in most organizations anymore. Defining career as a path can be risky too, particularly if you think of the path as having a defined destination. With the escalated pace of change in organizations today, the defined destination you’ve got in mind might not be there in the future.
I’d like you to consider shifting your thinking to consider career a journey. With career as a journey, and with a rolling, flexible plan, rather than a defined destination, as an individual you’ll open yourself up to career possibilities which may well allow you to be the very best you’ve ever been. As leaders in organizations, this shift in thinking will allow you to present a far richer and wider view of opportunity for your employees than you’ve ever had before.
Career as a journey, with detours, and side roads that can be exciting to explore, and maybe a bit scary along the way; to reach Stinson Beach (the website really doesn’t do it any justice) we travelled a stretch of narrow road that hugs a mountain on one side and falls off to the ocean on the other. There was a point where we were seriously wondering the sense of having taken this particular side road….and then we got there, and immediately felt the magic of this sleepy, off season beach town.
A rolling plan isn’t always certain, you won’t always know if you’re on track, and you might even take some wrong turns along the way. The beauty of career as a journey is that you can more easily correct your direction if you need to or want to, and you may find yourself is some places you never imagined.
Tradition has its place, but traditional mindsets and approaches to career are falling short of the mark in today’s workplace. I hope you’ll consider a shift in your thinking. For individuals, take a moment to reflect on how thinking about your career as a journey might change how you feel about where you are now and what your future holds. If you’re a leader within an organization, how could defining career as a journey impact how your employee’s contribute and connect with your organization?
I hope you’ll be part of my blog journey, as I share my ideas about career, career management, career development (whatever you want to call it). Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.