Frequently people in corporate America participate in career planning workshops. They are told, “You are responsible for your career and taking the steps to reach your goals.” Instead of thinking for themselves, individuals look at options within the job family where their job is assigned and decide the next rung on the ladder is the career goal to which they should aspire in the next 2-3 years. Working with their managers, they create an individual development plan to arrive at this identified career goal. However, do they really know what their career aspirations are and what they need to do to get there? Often their ultimate career goals are not well thought out. No road map exists to help them reach their destination, whether it is running their own company or sitting in the corner office one day at the company where they currently work.
To start, an individual needs to consider what success means to him/her, including aspects of life outside the job. Taking a holistic view helps an individual to articulate career and life goals in the next three, five, and ten and twenty years so they can build a roadmap to get there. Early in their career individuals often start on the corporate treadmill, time passes, and they realize many years later they chose the comfortable, safe path, not the road less traveled. So many people are afraid of making a mistake that they become paralyzed They become stalemated within a defined career path in a corporate job family where the career steps are clearly defined and little risk taking is involved. Quite often it takes a lay-off or job loss to jumpstart an individual in to exploring career options which are more challenging and a better match for his/her existing skill set.
For individuals who find themselves in this dilemma, a career guru once said, “Ask yourself what are you running toward or away from?” Once this question is answered, it is easier for individuals to know where they want to go, what tools they will need to get there, and how to develop a meaningful career road map. Individuals need to realize they may hit some potholes or take detours along the way. They need to remain open to changing their route, and adapting to roadblocks encountered along the way.
Robert Frost expressed it best in his 1920 poem, The Road Not Taken. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference.” Being flexible, adaptable, and remaining open to learning new skills are key components for individuals to use in being successful in any career. Individuals may venture down a career road map less traveled but that can lead to a destination far more meaningful what they originally planned.