When you are trying to make a career choice, whether you are just starting out or whether you are changing careers, how do you go about it? Do you create a plan, starting from where you are now and listing the steps you will need to take to reach your intended goal?
This is certainly one way to do it and it can be very helpful .After all, if you have a definite career in mind, you need to know which qualifications and skills you’ll have to acquire and you’ll need to know what sort of background experience is necessary or will help you move forward.
Working backwards from your end goal can help you understand how to get from where you are now to where you want to go. Of course, life is never that straightforward. It is possible that you may have everything mapped out only to discover that you can’t afford the training or there are very few jobs available.
.Another possibility is that you will change your mind. Suddenly, the career which was once so appealing no longer interests you. This isn’t really all that surprising, as it is difficult to get a realistic picture of a career before you are actually doing it or studying for it.
So how should you approach your future career?
Marialuisa Aliotta of Edinburgh University has written some interesting comments after a networking event:
Yesterday I attended the Women in Science and Engineering networking event held at the School of Chemistry, here at the University of Edinburgh. . . . . .
. . . . what I found most fascinating was to see the way in which people’s careers unfold. In fact, towards the end of the day, someone asked a very interesting question to all speakers: Looking back at the beginning of their careers and at their own aspirations then, do they think now that they have progressed through a planned path and that they have achieved what they had originally hoped for? And, if so, do they now feel happy because of this?
The speakers’ answers were revealing: mostly, they had not planned the turns and steps they took along the path; mostly, they did not even end up doing what they had originally set out for; and mostly, they had seen their aspirations and dreams change along the way. And yet, ultimately, they were all happy about the way things had turned out in their lives in the end.
This reminded me of a truly inspirational speech about “joining the dots”. It was the address given by Steve Jobs to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005. (If you have never seen it or heard it before, please take a look now by clicking here).
And so, at the end of the event, I found myself giving this piece of advice to an Italian girl approaching the end of her post-doctoral experience in Edinburgh and wondering about what to do next:
Remember that nothing is forever (good or bad).
Be patient: life is long.
I trust that in twenty or thirty-years’ time she too will look back at her own path and realise that each step along the way took her closer to where she wanted and needed to be….More at Career paths and inspirational people « Academic Life
This advice is particularly relevant in the current economic climate, where jobs are harder to come by and education expensive. We are trained to believe that we have to follow particular paths in life – school, college, career and then progression in the same career.
But this isn’t necessarily the best path. If we can learn to be more open, we may find that there are new possibilities out there and opportunities we would never have considered had we stayed with our original plan.