Why a Successful Career Journey Can Have More Turns Than Lombard Street
My parents encouraged me to stay on the 'straight and narrow' growing up. They wanted me to live a good, honest life and instilled in me values that they hoped would keep me away from immoral or illegal things. And it worked (mostly) as I was a good kid who listened to my teachers, got good grades, was president of my senior class and had success on various sport teams. I was taught that following the rules was important and expected, but being the youngest of five kids also meant I had just enough rebel in me to make me at least somewhat fun to be around.
I had my career all planned out and learned all of the rules that I would need to follow to be successful. I'd get a few years of real-life work experience, then go back and get an MBA. I'd join a large company and work harder than anyone else (definitely believed that the FILO method was the way to go). Given I outworked everyone else I was sure that I'd get promoted every two years and rise steadily up the business ranks. I'd then become a very important business executive by the time I was 30 and all would be right with the world.
Well it didn't happen EXACTLY the way I planned although fortunately I did come close. But we all know that our journeys in life rarely go as planned, even when we do follow all the rules. I am grateful for the career journey that I have been on and the many people who helped me navigate along the way. Here are some things I have learned:
- Your career path likely won't be a straight one. Just like Lombard street in San Francisco, there will be many twists and turns that you'll have to navigate on your career journey. Sometimes you might have to take a quick right or perhaps move sideways to move forward. I personally always found it hard to take a lateral job change, because I was wired to move up not to the side. But those lateral moves broaden your experience and exposure which can make the future roads you travel so much smoother. Don't be afraid to zig and zag a bit, especially early on, as it actually may help you get to the top of that career hill that much faster.
- You may encounter Do Not Enter signs along the way. Each of us has faced, or are facing today, obstacles along the way that can keep us from achieving our career goals. Other people wanting the same job that you are gunning for (think of it as a career traffic jam - which means you may find yourself sitting in one place for awhile). Other 'no entry' signs may be people saying you are not qualfiied for a job and/or your own insecurities about the same thing. You may not even be considered for an opportunity because you happen to have been born female or with brown or black skin. Along the way, you may have to go around a few of those Do Not Enter obstacles (and perhaps break a few rules) to get to the career destination you want.
- You won't always know what's around the next bend. Getting ahead may mean taking some risks. You may need to take that curve ahead a little faster than you are comfortable with, but it may be needed to stay in front of the person behind you. And even the best road maps don't show every pot hole or construction zone that you may encounter, so you won't always know exactly what the next turn will bring. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and then cinch up that seat belt and enjoy the ride!
- Sometimes back-seat drivers are actually right. You'll likely have plenty of people wanting to ride 'shot gun' and have back-seat career drivers with you who'll be shouting in your ear exactly where you should turn next. While it's important to set your own GPS for your journey, be open to the feedback of others. Sometimes taking a different route gets you to your same desitination but with MUCH more scenic views and vistas along the way. Happiness and learning often comes from the journey itself, not just by arriving at your destination. Don't forget to look up and enjoy the view.
- Be sure to fuel up for your journey. Like any long road trip, you need to have a full tank of gas and the right supplies to have your journey go smoothly. A career journey is no different, with the fuel being first and foremost a strong desire to succeed, the willingness to work hard and, of course, getting the right degrees and training you need for the job you want. Pack your 'car'-eer with as much work experience as you can, know how to fix your own 'flat tires', and be sure to pick up hitchhikers along the way (as in - build your network early and often). Be prepared, be flexible and engage with others along the way to make the trip as rewarding as possible.
One amazing career journey which I have had the privilege of riding 'shot gun' on is that of Michele Vig, who is the Founder + Chief Organizer of Neat Little Nest. Michele is now a professional organizer and decluttering expert, motivational speaker, author and award-winner entreprenuer. Check out her website (www.neatlittlenest.com), order her new book, "The Holistic Guide to Decluttering: Organize and Transform your Space, Time, and Mind" or join us for our upcoming Creatis Cares event where Michele is our presenting speaker - you will find details here.
Michele and I worked together at Caribou Coffee where her drive, smarts and grit resulted in a quick move up the corporate ladder to the seat of President. When circumstances required her to make a sharp right turn, she took the opportunity to fuel up for the next leg of her career journey. She became certified and quickly reached the gold level in the KonMari Method method of decluttering developed by Marie Kondo. After a career filled with much success as a marketing and business executive, Michele is now living her dream of entreprenuership and fulfilling her lifelong passion of creating beautifully designed and organized spaces.