Where we start isn’t always where we finish. At least that’s the case with many careers.
It’s crazy to think that when we’re in high school we’d have a clear idea about what we want to do for a lifetime. Nevertheless, we go on to technical school or college choosing a trade or a major which declares, “This is my future.”
The business world is a big place. There are tens of thousands of career paths in as many businesses. So choosing a career is mind-boggling.
Sorting through it all
The process usually begins with courses we liked best in school. I said, “My favorite subject is English. So I’ll major in that, minor in education, and become an English teacher.” Whew…I’m done. I’ve got a specialty and a career to go with it to pay the bills. So that was it—until, of course, it wasn’t!
Careers often start out as a smooth and promising ride before reality changes things. I remember those early-days programmers who loved mastering computer languages unique to the companies they worked for. It was all good until their companies abandoned those proprietary languages and said “good-bye” to the programmers.
We need to look at every job as a learning platform that moves us toward a career that suits us.
Each job reveals what motivates us and what doesn’t. We get to test our limits and our principles. We start to zone in on what we’re really good at and what we aren’t.
If we’re smart, we work with a willingness to try new things, apply our skills in new ways, and meet people with different perspectives.
Then things start to happen. We stop seeing ourselves as being owned by our jobs but being raised by them. We recognize that we can remix our talents and our interests for career opportunities that are a better fit.
My disquiet about my early career in teaching led me to into consumer education and then senior manager jobs at a big company. Concurrently, one of my show dogs was ill, so I was often at the vet. Eventually, my veterinarian asked me for help which led to a consulting sidelight, the precursor to the practice I have today. This kind of career transitioning is out there for anyone who’s open to it.
Take Ray Vallafane. According to CBS’ Steve Hartman, Ray has spent every October for the last 15 years in his basement studio, “reinventing the art of pumpkin carving. Using sculpting tools instead of knives. Ray can now take a pumpkin, and, over the course of about eight hours, transform it into a museum-quality fruit.” Ray was a former grade school teacher who turned a pastime into a full-time carving career that also led him to sculpting models for toy companies. Not bad!
Then there was Jim Nicholson from the Philadelphia Daily News and now Kay Powell at the Atlanta Journal Constitutional, both journalists who, according to CBS’ Jeff Greenfield, took steps “to breathe new life” into obituary writing. Instead of writing stilted chronicles, they brought ordinary people to life with recollections and anecdotes. These writers forged a unique niche in which they have set the standard.
Let your real career come to you.
Sometimes we try way too hard to nail down our careers before their time. Sometimes we’re so impatient that we miss what’s right in front of us. The more we resist what we really want, the more persistent the urge becomes.
Achieving business fitness starts with committing to discovery. The key is never to rule out career options but to explore what you need to do to get closer to what you seek. Sometimes the right chance will fall into your lap and other times it will sneak up on you. Just do your best to be ready to grab it when it’s within reach!
What career surprises have come your way? How were you able to spot and then seize them? Thanks.