Career by Accident, or Career by Design?

woman at computer

After working with hundreds of people in dozens of different careers and industries, I have found that most of us follow what I call the “opportunistic” path to our career.

Most of us chart our career course by through random job opportunities. We throw ourselves into these jobs with some enthusiasm, and may even find satisfaction and fulfillment if we are lucky enough. 

Far too many others, however, find that they seized upon a job opportunity that ended up making them unhappy and dissatisfied. And then, they languish for years in unsatisfying jobs because they don’t know how to get out. 

How can we find better opportunities and make better choices when they arise? The most important factor is having a clearer sense of all the components that go into the “right” career choice.

Building a career “by design” means being deliberate about career decisions. It means not leaping at the first opportunity that comes along. It means having a clear idea about what you want your career to be, now and well into the future.

Consider these career questions as a way of plotting your current place in the job world, and what you might have to do to find a better, more satisfying job opportunity:

  • What is your career right now?
  • What stage are you at in that career?
  • What do you really want to do/be?
  • What are you really good at?
  • What do you really love doing?

It seems simple enough, but far too many people launch themselves into a career without considering any of these fundamental questions. 

In the past, entire careers might be spent working for the same organization. Too many people took the first job opportunity and, while they may not have been satisfied, stayed in the job for years. Their job choice was made without a lot of forethought about what would be fulfilling; it was more about having an income. As a result, many became disillusioned—and began moving to job after job, never finding what they really want.

Today’s Millennials consider job-hopping to be the rule, and not the exception. They look at jobs more as projects than life-long career commitments. However, it’s just as important for this and subsequent generations to be very deliberate about plotting a career path, and picking job opportunities that most connect with that plan.

Let’s face it—a career involves working eight or more hours a day, five days a week or more, for up to 40 years on average. Do you really want to spend all this time being unfulfilled, just trying to get through each day, week and year? Or would you rather look forward to each working day with a deliberate sense of purpose?

The career of your dreams is out there. You just need to take the time to figure out what it is, and then go find it.

About the Author

This is one in a multi-part series from Nancy Sullivan offering insight and advice to get you back on track, working and living in the career that is right for you. Nancy is a board certified executive coach with Lee Hecht Harrison. She is the author of "Transition Points: Finding Your Career Intersection of Skill and Passion.” To bring Nancy to your organization, have her speak at your conference or consult with her, email: Nancy@NancySullivanAuthor.com.

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