Sometimes the best thing for your career is not knowing what you want next.
Early in our careers, the steps we must take to get promoted and grow our capabilities are clear because there are not as many options for us to expand into yet. For example, you start as a junior accountant, and often your only next step is to Accountant 1, then to Senior Accountant, to Accounting Manager. Or HR Admin to HR Generalist to HR Business Partner to HRVP. You get the picture. But what comes next?
When I asked a beloved C-level client what, if anything, she wished she had done differently with her career that may inform her steps forward, she said, “I always felt like I should have had a career plan. But if I did, I would not have ended up here.” She still feels the “should” hanging on, but also has the awareness that if she had carefully planned every career step, she might have kept them safe or small. She could never have imagined the giant leaps that she would repeatedly take over her career trajectory. Can you relate?
As leaders, our career paths may seem to narrow in some ways. But the truth is, at a certain level, we become aware of our capabilities to work across industries and sometimes across practice areas. Our networks, if we have tended to them, are strong and eager to support us when we want to make a move. It is often a disservice for a leader or executive to set a specific target for the next step in their career as they may accidentally become blinders, keeping us from roles and career moves that we would never have imagined possible.
If you recognize yourself in this, imagine the future without a clear career path in mind. What else shows up as a possibility? You have worked your entire life to have options. To be sought after. Be careful that you aren’t accidentally over-architecting your career journey. This can be a fun chapter with the right amount of open-mindedness, imagination, and belief in yourself.
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