Where do you want to go?

career career path mentor Jul 22, 2020

When I think about career development, I find Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You Will Go!” bouncing around in my head. I know, it's crazy! In particular:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”

The thing that draws me to this quote is the fact that Dr. Seuss made the reader responsible for where they will go. The same is true in creating a career path. We are the ones who are the driver of our careers. Sure, we will get help from mentors, managers and sponsors, yet it is up to us to pick a path, do the job and take the risks. We are also the ones who reap the rewards or suffer the consequences.

Your career is a journey; you will learn new things, find new paths and meet new people along the way. The path you first start down may not be where you end up at the end. My career started as a process engineer working for the Navy as a civilian and I am now a coach, trainer and consultant with my own business. I sure didn’t see this path 33 years ago when I got started.

To define your career:

  1. Evaluate your likes and interests. What are you excited about in your current role? What would you like to learn more about? Are there topics or trends that have piqued your interest?
  2. Think about what you want to do next. You don’t have to plot a path until the end of your career. Based on your interests what jobs or roles would give you experience in those areas? Focus on what you are interested in doing over the next 2 – 3 years.
  3. Learn more about the roles you are interested in. Look for ways to learn more about the jobs that interest you. Who can you connect with to learn more about what they do and how they got there? Does your company have those roles? Are there trade societies that you can join?
  4. Find a mentor and/or a sponsor. Connect with a senior person who can guide you down the path you want to take. They can give you insights into what you need to do to be successful and they can help give you exposure to opportunities.
  5. Figure out what skill gaps you may have. Are there things you need to learn, skills you need to develop, experiences you need to have to be successful in the role you are targeting?
  6. Create a plan to build skills. Once you know where you want to go and what you need to do to be ready for the role create a plan to get there. How can you learn the skills you need, what experience can you get?
  7. Talk to your manager. As you figure out where you want to go, and you have an idea of what it will take have a conversation with your boss. They can help you get experiences, point you in the right direction, and provide feedback on your skills. They may not embrace the idea of you leaving their team so don’t be surprised if they are resistant to helping. Unless you know your boss is a jerk be honest with them. They may surprise you.
  8. While looking forward give your best to your current job. It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of the next new, shiny thing. However, if you stop performing well in your current role you will lose credibility and support. Demonstrating your abilities is critical to getting new roles.
  9. Stay open to new ideas. The world is ever changing, and new technologies, new fields and new opportunities appear all the time. Stay curious and keep an eye out on what’s happening. You might find something even better.
  10. Keep moving. To move to something new you must take the first step, then another and so one. Keep learning, growing and exploring it will lead you to new places.

Many companies aren’t great about career development or sharing new opportunities for their employees. If you want to drift along with wherever they send you that’s great, but you likely will not end up where you want to be. By taking control of your career plan you get to pick your path.

“Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!


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