When asked to imagine their career path, odds are most people picture something linear. If you ask around enough, you will find that most career paths are “unexpected” or “unplanned”. Very seldom do you find a linear career path (Starting at Entry Level, getting promoted to Senior Level, then to Management Level, and finally Executive Level). For most of us it really isn’t that simple. The reality of it is that several shifts in focus, and even major career changes, are not uncommon. You can never be certain what comes around the corner, and a career is no exception. The best option you have is to try to outline the path with which your career takes.
10 Pointers to Define Your Career Path
1) Job vs Career vs Calling:
People view their work as one of three kinds: A Job, A Career, or A Calling. The point is this: one might say, “I lay bricks”, another might say, “I build walls”, and a third might say, “I create cathedrals.” All three share the same daily task, it is the perspective that differs.
It is also key to note the verbs used:
- Lay: simple, mechanical motion of placing one brick over another.
- Build: more depth than the one-dimensional motion of placing bricks.
- Create: a greater purpose in conception of something meaningful.
The key is to assess which of the above is your work categorised under, and make plans forward to find your Calling.
2) Embrace failure as a learning opportunity: “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
Some view failure as the ultimate loss of control. This isn’t true. What you can control is your reaction to it. Instead of getting angry or playing the blame game, you can choose to take responsibility, learn from your mistakes and make corrections going forward.
The lessons from these failures you face will eventually come together towards helping you define your ultimate Calling. If you think your current job is unsuitable for you, it’s okay to move on and learn from the experience. No matter your work, even if it’s for a short term, provides some value.
3) Savour the journey, not the outcome: No matter how much you achieve or accomplish, there is always something more to attain. You’ll never truly “arrive at” your final destination. Far too many people put off what really matters in pursuit of the things they want to achieve – Health, relationships, pleasure; They tell themselves that they’ll worry about these things once they’ve reached their destination. Enjoy your career as it happens, instead of always worrying about what’s comes next.
4) Be open minded to unconventional career paths: Noted at the top of this post, career paths are rarely as simple as we’d like it to be. Because of that, it’s crucial to investigate all options you have. Be open minded to all possibilities and take the time to explore them. The more you knock, the more doors you will find open.
This includes changing careers, taking up academic courses, or switching to a different employer, or even picking up new hobbies and getting serious about them.
5) Make yourself indispensable: Always strive to do more than what’s required of you and seek to master new skills. Dedicate yourself to high standards, and deliver what you promise, this will not only make yourself more indispensable to your employer, but also help enrich you with considerable experience and leverage your knowledge for the future.
6) Remove all external validation: Your career path is the highway, you’re the one driving the car. It is imperative to never forget that your career decisions should be motivated by your own goals and happiness. Do not concern yourself with the goals and expectations of others. “Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. Prestige warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy” – Paul Graham. There will always be other factors, like bills to pay or family members to support, but you should always balance them with your own desires.
7) Work hard for your “luck”: No truly successful person today got there through luck alone. While the luck factor may play a significant role in careers, after the luck always comes all the hard work. While it’s always helpful to get a gentle push through connections, there’s no substantial replacement for persistence and dedication.
8) Seek & consult with various perspectives: There is a certain bias in every perspective. This phenomenon has been named, by the French, déformation professionnelle: the tendency to look at all contexts from the point of view of one’s experiences.
Get outside the echo chamber. Try looking for fresh views on a career move by asking people outside of the scene. Take a step back, a second opinion is always helpful for you to obtain a clearer, fuller picture of the situation.
9) Want to be a big kid? Then you got to play with the big kids: If given the opportunity, learn directly from experienced peers who at the level that you want to someday be at. It’s the equivalent of “dressing for the role you want, not the role you have.” Challenge yourself by taking up a position to observe the rules, the environment, and people. In time, you will learn and grow at a rate that would be incomparable to the “role you once held”. The best way to improve yourself by to wearing big shoes, and trying to fill them.
10) Cultivate your patience: Building a career is a lifelong task, not an overnight stint or even a yearlong grind. There will be moments where you ask yourself if this is the right path, and then there will be moments where you cannot look back because the new views are better than before. Stay focused on your objectives in the long term and make important career choices deliberately. Your patience will be rewarded.
Final Thoughts on Career Planning
Don’t take too long in between sessions of career planning. Career planning can have multiple benefits, from goal-setting to career change, to a more successful life. Begin regularly reviewing and planning your career using the tips provided in this article, and you’ll soon find yourself better prepared for whatever lies ahead in your career — and in your life.