Any Road Will (Not) Do: 6 Tips for Successful Career ManagementBy Georgia Adamson
One variation of the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.” Or, as another puts it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re likely to wind up somewhere else.” When applied to establishing a successful career, not knowing where you’re headed or how you’re going to get there spells trouble with a capital T.
Sometimes people luck-out and easily get what seems like a good job early in life, only to find years later that they have gone from job to job with no clear sense of purpose and have ended up on a dead-end road or one that leads somewhere they really don’t want to go. In other cases the individual might start with a career path carefully planned out and pursue it diligently, then run into a situation where the rules of the game have changed practically overnight because of technology advances or other events that were difficult to anticipate.
Obviously, there are few (if any) easy answers to some of the dilemmas you can encounter in trying to map out your career and put your plans into action but here are six tips you might find helpful:
1. Don’t depend on someone else to take care of the career decisions for you.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t consult experts, such as career coaches or counselors, who may be able to help you identify information and resources you might not otherwise discover. It just means that, ultimately, you are the one who has the most at stake in making the right decisions—you can’t hand that responsibility off to other people then sit back and relax while they do the work for you.
2. Desperation may be a strong motivator for change, but it can seriously cloud your ability to think effectively.
By far the best time to investigate possibilities and consider potentially major career or job changes is when you don’t have to. It’s somewhat like applying for a loan or line of credit with a bank. You’re more likely to get one when you don’t urgently need it, because you can readily demonstrate your ability to repay it.
3. Consider who else might be affected by your career decisions.
While the final choice is still yours—at least in theory—any unilateral decision you make (without consulting other people who will be impacted by it) could create some serious repercussions for you. If you’re unattached and unencumbered by responsibilities, that’s one thing. On the other hand, if you have family members who depend on you or others who will somehow have to live with the results of your actions that are a much more complex situation and needs careful thought.
4. “Look before you leap” may be a cliché, but it still has validity when you’re talking about something as significant as choosing a career that could take up years of your life.
Victims of the 2000-2001 dot-com fiasco can certainly attest to that. Swept along by the understandable desire to parlay their strengths into a high-paying, sky’s-the-limit job in the booming high-tech, internet explosion, many of them overlooked the fact that most of the new companies weren’t making money and had little or no chance of making any in the foreseeable future. When reality hit, it did so with a vengeance.
5. Relationships play a critical role in your success, even in the present era where technology seems to control so much of what we do.
Work on developing a resource network that you can trust and depend on to provide you with the right kind of help when you need to investigate, evaluate, and choose a career direction. Nurture that network, keep it healthy, and expand it whenever you find a new resource that would make a useful addition to it.
6. Flexible choices give you more room to cut your losses if you make a wrong decision.Think long and hard if you’re considering a career move that doesn’t allow much margin for error or that requires a major investment of time, energy, and/or money that you might be reluctant or unable to toss aside if your choice turns out to be a disaster.