If you are lost, pick a destination
Recently, I had a conversation with an associate who asked me for career advice. It’s a request I get often and one I take very seriously. Because it’s also a question that places a tremendous obligation on me to help someone that is trusting me with their career. So I thought assembling my approach to career advice in a blog might be of interest to both seekers and givers of career advice.
One key to success in life is to stop defining your career as a “job.” To me a “job” is a short term project, a dispensable task or “something one is doing that has a beginning and an end.” So approaching your “career” as a “job” is a dangerous mindset. Often I hear people complain “I hate my job” – never have I heard someone say “I hate my career.” In my opinion, people take a job for the wrong reasons. To pay bills and to get through life. A “job” lacks passion, enthusiasm and motivation.
So first, I suggest mentally approach what you do as a “career.” Just that mentality will guide you in a more satisfying direction.
Next, I highly recommend you find passion in what you’re doing or do something else. Passion is essential to be successful in all areas of life, so find it in your career.
My next suggestion is “be realistic in what you are capable of succeeding at in your career”. Using myself as an example, one of my passions is baseball. But I knew at a young age I was not gifted enough to be a professional baseball player, so I kept my passion in that area to being a fan and found another passion to excel in professionally.
Finally, I say “be patient and keep your eye on the ultimate goal.” This suggestion if used consistently is how you have a great shot at being successful. Let’s start with a metaphor. When you get in a car to go somewhere, you have a destination in mind. The very decisions you make from that point forward are based on getting to that destination. What road should be taken? Turn left or right here? Is this the best path? Do I need gas? Should I get a cup of coffee? Should I take a risk and speed to get there faster? Hundreds of small and big decisions, which all determine how, when and even if you’ll get there. But, with the right decision at every juncture you will indeed arrive. Now, imagine you want to go somewhere, but you don’t know where. You just know you have to go. So you get in your car with no destination in mind. You start your car and just drive, basing all decisions on impulse, not knowing where you’re going. Just wondering where you’ll end up. Guessing, trying to make the right decision at every juncture, but not sure if you are. And you really can’t make the right decisions because you have no point of reference or destination to drive your decisions. So you drive, and drive and drive. Mostly making the wrong decisions and regretting them.
Now, apply this metaphor to your career. It makes understanding the process so much easier. Let’s say you’ve found a great place to work – you feel passionate about what you’re doing, passionate about the company, the culture, the people and the product. But now you wonder “How do I grow within this organization?” It’s easy! Pick a destination. For the sake of this example, let’s say you’re entry level and you pick as your destination the role of vice president of the company. Great, you have a destination. Prepare yourself for a long ride and do the exact same thing as demonstrated in the example above. Base every decision you make, small or big, on what the vice president of the company would do. If you have to make a decision and you’re not sure what to do, ask yourself “What would the vice president of this company do at this juncture?”, then do it. If you don’t know, ask. Get the right answer, because 99% of the time there is a right and a wrong answer to everything you do. Everything.
So whether you’re the owner of a giant corporation or just breaking into the workplace, this simple strategy can be applied to any objective: knowing your destination makes it simple to make the right choices. Remembering to always apply this philosophy consistently along with your great personal brand will vastly increase your chances of achieving success because you will always be making all the right decisions.
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