My car broke down this week, and the mechanic says the engine is shot. Since then I’ve started hunting for a new car, and I’ve been working through the usual questions. Do I go with the brand that failed me? Do I find another brand? And within that brand, what model do I choose?
As I shop around, I’m reminded of how we typically look at career development in the United States. We pay for an education and we expect a career in return. When it doesn’t materialize like the college said it would, we’re stumped, even angry. What do we do? Often we research the equivalent of brands and models. If we can just make the right decision, we can drive our shiny new career off the lot and into the sunset.
But my work life has never worked that way, and I’m guessing yours hasn’t so far either. The company is good, but the industry is failing. The career is fabulous, but the boss is insane. We never get what we hoped for, at least not all at the same time.
What if, instead, we thought in terms of who we want to become? What if we saw ourselves as evolving, not needy? What could we try next that would make life more meaningful? Once we make a decision about that, what steps can we make to turn that decision into a successful one?
The more I work as a career coach, the more I believe that it’s not about making the right or wrong decisions, it’s about developing successful habits in work and learning as we go. So when you’re thinking about your career, resist the consumer mindset. Instead, start thinking about how you want to grow, and have faith that if you find a place that meets some of your criteria, you can make it work.