Advice to identify and pursue a clear career direction is routine and persistent. But what if your focus isn’t clear? Or you encounter an obstacle (academic, financial, personal) that means a change in plans? Or you cringe at the thought of confining yourself to a specific function or industry?
Although having well-defined plans seems ideal, for most of us life is a little less tidy than the ideal suggests. Consider the following scenarios:
→ Kelli was embarrassed to admit, when asked about her career plans at college graduation, that she was uncertain. To outsiders it looked like her accounting degree implied an accounting job and career. To Kelli, the situation was more complex: what kind of accounting? Tax, audit, cost; public, corporate? Besides, the internship she did her senior year revealed some aspects of accounting she began to wonder about. She felt confused and uncertain.
→ In contrast, Kelli’s friend Ricardo knew at a very young age that he wanted to be a doctor. Kelli admired his focus and determination through college, medical school and beyond. In fact, Kelli was jealous and wondered if something was the matter with her.
→ Alex never had a clear career focus. His interests were many; he changed his major several times, graduating with a degree in political science because that’s was where he had the most credits. Alex’s first job was at a large rental-car company; after 4 years he left for a job at a small commercial property management firm. Though he had a track record of employment, it was never planned. It just happened. Alex was troubled and wondered what to do next.
→ After 17 years as a medical-surgical nurse in a large hospital, Julie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She loved her job, but the progression of MS, though slow, affected her ability to perform some of her job’s fine motor work. She felt frustrated and worried about her future.
Kelli, Alex, and Julie are not doomed or flawed. They are dealing with the realities of modern life. Change abounds — technology, personal circumstances, and the economy, for instance.
Even people who have had definite career goals and have achieved them have had to make adjustments in their work. For example: developments in technology and health care legislation have required changes for people working in the medical field. Even people with very focused and detailed career plans will need to accommodate change at some point in their work lives.
What then are we to do? Michael Melcher, in his book, The Creative Lawyer, states “The process of creating a life that works for you does not unfold logically. It proceeds in fits and starts, involves unlearning as much as learning, and requires you to push forward amidst ambiguity. You have to act before you’re ready to act, consider that your true interests and preferences might surprise you, and defer evaluation until you have collected a lot of evidence. You have to get out into the world, seek out new experiences and connect with new people. . . I try to stick to these principles not because they’re always easy, but because I’ve learned they work.”
This does not mean that we abandon analysis, logic, planning, and the desire for coherence in our career pursuits. It does mean acknowledging the fluidity of our lives and developing ways to incorporate what we’ve learned from our experiences and how to leverage our skills and experience for our next moves. This is a do-able process. It’s not always easy, but it can be done.
Kelli, Alex, and Julie can get unstuck. It’s a matter of enlisting resources; reaching out to others; thinking and acting thoughtfully; and then paying it forward when they’ve made good moves.
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! SUCCESS !
In June I met with Mark M. for a Career Action Planning (CAP) session. Mark had relocated to St. Louis and was seeking employment as an accountant, for which he’d recently retrained. He sent an email update recently and offered it as a testimonial.
“I am dropping you a note to let you know that I accepted an offer with [a local public accounting firm] this week. I believe the position is ideal. The role will allow me to progress as an associate and develop technical knowledge in the profession, while also allowing an opportunity to use my experience in business development for the firm.
Sue, our session together was very useful and provided needed encouragement as well as positive enforcement. The session also reinforced concepts and techniques that I had known of, but not used effectively.”
Congratulations to Mark! He did a thorough search, used his resources well, persisted through times of discouragement and frustration, and through the network of connections he built, landed his new job.
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it.
For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the comment form on my website.