Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finding the right career path...What’s a person to do?

by Helen Antholis

Have you ever wondered if the path you are on is going to take you where you want to go?

Do you know where you want to go?

Lewis Carroll writes about this in Alice in Wonderland. Alice is lost and comes to a fork in the road. She asks the Cheshire Cat, “Which road should I take?” He says, “Where do you want to go?” Alice says, “I really don’t know.” The Cheshire Cat responds, “Well, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

It’s the same for careers. Taking jobs because you are “motivated” by the convenience (“It’s close to home”), the salary (“It’s good money”), the benefits (“Where else can I get health insurance and so many days off?”), the hours (“I don’t have to work overtime”), and other “Hygiene factors,” as Herzberg would say, then you’re not in it for a career.

Careers are not static, one-place jobs. They are a moving series of positions, approaches, plans, and strategies to get you where you need to be. It doesn’t mean that where you think you’ll end up is your goal. It means that your journey of growth is more important than the destination.

Your journey needs to begin with a road map, but that doesn’t mean you will not or should not veer off the beaten path. In fact, it might be better. As Robert Frost wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I...I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Over the decades since I graduated college, I’ve held many positions in various companies and organizations, including running three of my own businesses. Throughout those years, my husband and I raised two children who are now responsible and independent adults pursuing their own career aspirations.

As I reflect on my career, what made me achieve my goals was a willingness to, over many years:
•Seek and try new jobs
•Build relationships
•Gain new skills
•Learn from my mistakes
•Commute long hours
•Work for less than I was worth
•Continue my education
•Build a business on days off and nights
•Volunteer in my community and trade associations
•Take risks with three business ventures
•Shoulder frustrations
•Balance career with a personal life
•Stay close with friends and family, and
•Manage my time in a way that served my family and me well.

It wasn’t always perfect or easy. In fact, it was never perfect and never easy. But through perseverance, hard work, laughter, friends, mentors, and my family’s support, I got to where I needed to be. Did I start out with that goal in the 70s when women were struggling to be treated fairly? No. But a series of twists and turns in the road, not to mention luck, led me here. But you need to be willing to know who you are and be open to new adventures. With that, you’ll find your way. But give yourself time...it doesn’t happen overnight.

Remember too...the road less travelled may make all the difference.

Helen Antholis is president of Performance Advantage Inc, a training and consulting firm specializing in developing leaders and building better workplaces. Check out her blog at www.anditsonlytuesday.com and connect with her on Twitter. Subscribe by email to the blog to receive her free eBookette on the four guiding principles for leadership when it first launches.

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