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Young professionals leave school with the intent of launching their career based on their study specialty.
This may seem like a reasonable approach, but the reality is that when you start out you never really know where you will end up.
A career is an unclear destination with an unpredictable journey and a healthy dose of luck.
I was as an executive leader but I didn’t start out at age 21 looking for an executive position. Not hard to figure out why, right?
I ARRIVED there after many years of strategic meandering through the hierarchy of my organization doing many things; developing and honing the skills necessary to add as much value as I could. And to be the logical choice for my opportunity when it arose.
I STARTED as a systems analyst in the data processing department. It was a job; it wasn’t my career. It turned out NOT to be my destination. It was a stop along the way.
When you are just starting your working life, you can’t with any degree of precision determine what your career will be.
I see too many young professionals unable to decide on whether to take a particular job or not. They agonize over whether it fits with their long term career plan; they are paralyzed and can’t make a decision. They search and they search. They don’t move forward. They are risk averse.
The thing is, if you don’t take the job, you will NEVER know if it fits or not.
Find your passion. Your top priority is to look for an organization that excites you in some way. If it’s doesn’t, it’s unlikely to motivate you to proactively seek opportunities in it.
Look for a job in an organization that gets your juices flowing. An environment that allows you to express your passion is more important than the immediate job at hand because it’s the opportunity POTENTIAL that will determine your ultimate career. I took a systems analyst job in an organization poised for change and arrived many years later in the executive suite with an operations and marketing brand. My education was mathematics and computer science. Go figure.
Choose an organization that has a culture and history of mobility. An organization that has a program of moving new employees around and exposing them to different roles. I was part of the “management trainee program”; I was placed in 6 different positions over a 24-month period. This experience provided me a incomparable perspective on which areas were interesting and those that I would try to avoid.
Experiencing a variety of roles enabled me to architect my career path. I targeted specific areas and roles to acquire within a certain time period along with an action plan to get there. My plan wasn’t all about promotions; sometimes it made sense to take a lateral move to acquire the experience necessary to qualify for a promotion at some future point.
Takeaway for grads – don’t fret over whether the job suits you. It probably doesn’t but it just might lead to a brilliant future if you are willing to make the call and take the risk to find out.
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