What would happen if you got in your car and let it decide where and when to drive?
Or jumped on a train without checking its destination and route?
Or sat down in the middle of an airport and waited for someone to buy you a ticket and put you on a plane?
Well then why do so many people just wait to see where their career will go?
Make no mistake, there are lots of examples of stellar careers that “just ended up that way” – right place, right time, just lucky, fantastically supportive boss, progressive talent evaluation and development programs, creative thinking about cross-functional moves – yes, these things do exist and CAN be conduits to great opportunity.
But there are lots more examples of careers that COULD have been more fulfilling, more rewarding if only the individual had laid clear claim to what they wanted.
I’m aware that making that claim is not necessarily as easy as it seems. After all, it involves self-awareness and courage and communication skills and trust and relationship and patience and a willingness to eliminate options and not please everyone.
But the downside seems, at least to me, too tragic to entertain.
Because what if you waited till someone noticed you, till they took a guess at what you’d like and would be good at, and then handed you what they thought would be an appropriate next option for you whenever it became available?
What are the chances it would be what you want and would excel at and that would fit into your life perfectly?
After many years of working with hundreds of good, smart people wanting to succeed and be acknowledged and be part of something they believe in, it’s clear to me that there’s something missing from our early career guidance. I don’t think anyone – parents, schools, managers – really tells the straight goods about what it takes to have a career that you love, that lets you use your strengths to maximum effect, and gives you the opportunity to contribute to something you believe in with people you like and respect.
Nope, careers like that don’t just happen. They are also totally possible.
So here’s my challenge. Do enough reflection and self-analysis to know what you’re good at and what makes you happy. Think about your career as one part of your life and decide what would fit best. Consider both your short and longer term goals – for your career and your life. Get creative and imaginative – don’t limit yourself to what currently exists or what you know about.
And then ask for it. Ask for it in terms that make it clear – you at your best is good for your company. You working with and from your strengths is you making your very best contribution. Any less and it’s a bad deal for everyone.
However, if you must – enjoy this favourite passage of mine from one of the greatest books ever written. Thanks, Dr. Seuss!
THE WAITING PLACE
by Dr. Seuss
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
Excerpt from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss