The other day as I was conducting walk-in career counseling appointments at NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development, a Freshman came in confused about which career field to pursue.
“Should I go into [field a] or [field b]?” he asked.
So I replied, “Which of these fields do you really WANT to be in?” We chatted deeper about his interests, and then I asked him to pause for a moment, and consider looking at his ‘quandry’ in a different way…
I asked him to consider that he is in fact at a huge advantageright now at this point in his life, and that now is the BEST time than ever for him to take that ‘leap’ and pursue the career he desires / feels ”called” to.
Being that he is in school, the “risk” for him to do so is at its minimum, and NOW is the time for him to strategically ”investigate” his potential career interests and “experiment”…so he can in turn best assess and come to a well-informed, educated decision for himself when it comes to declaring a major and pursuing full-time job offers post-graduation (a specific target + strategy + action = higher percentage of getting the results you desire).
“YOU are in control of your career…you create and steer it in the direction that YOU desire,” I assured him. As our appointment came to an end, he thanked me for my time, expressing how he now felt optimistic and light-hearted, and he looked FORWARD to what lay ahead, rather than the uncertainty and fear he had felt previously (this is why I love career coaching!). And it was after this conversation, that I realized just how important a message there was in here for professionals of ALL ages and stages in their lives:
Whether you are just starting out or have been working for two, five or ten+ years, it’s YOU and only you, who actively STEERS your own career.
Sadly, many people lose sight of this fact as they venture down the ’road’ / path to their dream career. With sometimes unexpected ‘twists’ and ‘turns’ and ‘traffic’ along the way, they become ‘lost’ and easily distracted, in time inadvertently switching from the ‘driver’s seat’ (active steering) to that of the ‘passenger’ (passive reacting).
What this means…
While most people do set out with a very specific dream career and a plan in mind to get there, somewhere along the way, unexpected circumstances or challenges occur, and one way or another, as mentioned above, out of fear, they veer ‘off-course’….and sadly, they STAY off course, for many years, and sometimes, for the remainder of their careers…experiencing regret, frustration and demotivation that slowly build and build over time (and this is NO way to live!).
The FEAR I’m talking about here is the general fear of the UNCERTAINTIES of LIFE that we all experience; the voices in our head anxiously asking, ’What will happen down the road?’, ‘Will reaching my goals be difficult?’, ‘They say nothing good comes easy!’, ‘Can I REALLY have what I desire and be truly happy?’ So, today I challenge you to answer that voice in your head with this thought:
“Fear is always there with things which can be changed,” … and “When change is certain, there is no fear.”
Sit and be still with this for a minute. Then repeat it, and keep repeating it, until it starts to ‘sink in’. Be patient with yourself and take your time, whether it’s a minute, 15 minutes, an hour, a day or more. There’s no rush here.
You’ll know it’s sinking in when you begin to feel at peace with it, or like a ‘weight’ or ‘burden’ has been lifted off your shoulders. And when you start to feel excited and empowered by it, then I’m happy to report that you have just successfully made a powerful and MAJOR shift in your perception, that when applied as explained below, can ‘re-calibrate’ and propel your career forward in the direction you desire.
“Not realistic!” you say? Or perhaps you are thinking, “What about those uncontrollable circumstances…and the actions of others that negatively impact me and my career?” Ok, fair question, and I totally ‘get’ you here.. But just for a moment, consider viewing this through another ‘lens’…
In a nutshell: If you truly acknowledge and accept the fact that there will always be unexpected changes and circumstances that will appear in your life (after all, ‘change is the only thing that’s constant’), ESPECIALLY in your career (i.e. you may not get a job you wanted, you may unexpectedly get let go from a job, you may not get a promotion when you expect it, etc.), then you should in essence, be prepared to:
1) Swiftly and creatively respond to change in a way that puts you BACK onto the course/path you came from.
2) Adjust your path or create a new one that may have a different appearance than the one you originally envisioned/started on, but still gets you to your intended destination.
In other words, be prepared to think (and act) ‘outside the box’ to get where you want to be in your career, just like you would in any other part of your life as needed (adjust your diet to improve a health or weight concern or re-mortgage your home to finance a major renovation, a child’s education, etc.).
Some ‘real world’ examples:
Perhaps the path to your dream career shows up in your life in a different way that you originally envisioned, such as:
-Additional education / training
-A paced transition
-A small step back
-A lateral move
-A new role
The KEY here to remember is that YOUR path is in YOUR hands….and the more you stay stuck to that ONE particular path you originally envisioned /started with as being the ONLY one, you will very likely end up stifling many more valuable and fruitful opportunities and possibilities that lie before you. And they cannot potentially happen unless you are open to them.
‘Perception’ is everything.
You see, it’s how you PERCEIVE change and how you ACTION on it, that will directly impact what you make possible for yourself and your career, now, and in the future. And either you can let outside forces and unexpected changes control you, and veer you off the path from your dream career, or you can acknowledge change and realize that this just means you just need to find a new or slightly different path to get there (the key being committed to and focused on the same goal, but just a potentially different path to it). And sometimes, that path may not look all that different either … but the key is taking some action that over time, steers you in the intended direction you desire.
A day after meeting the aforementioned student, I discovered an inspiring quote that says it all:
“Professional life, much like life in general, is a Chess board. It’s about being CREATIVE enough to invent your own routes.” (@JerePower)
In other words, give yourself the power and permission to CREATIVELY invent or reinvent your own path to your dream career, no matter what that path looks like. Your path is your OWN, so there’s no right or wrong way…there’s only YOUR way! So, jump into the ‘driver’s sea’t and start steering now…and when unexpected CHANGE comes your way, decide whether you will be captured, or be the one to proudly exclaim CHECKMATE!
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