Thoughts on determining your career path
Choosing what career to pursue can be either a tough or easy decision. It is one decision everybody makes either intentionally, accidentally, or unconsciously. It is often good to make that decision early, however, it can rarely ever be too late to choose one’s path.
Some people focus on what they have studied; becoming an Accountant because you studied Accounting or aiming for teaching roles because you have an Education degree. For some others, following the opportunity irrespective of their background is more important. Remember when many new graduates trooped into banks when the banking industry offered the most attractive jobs? It was the same when the Telecoms industry started expanding during the GSM era as many people found work in the call centres, and some others were able to move because related roles were available commensurate to their experience.
Then some settle for what is available. This is most likely because they either haven’t found work after searching for a long while or they may not have the required qualifications and experience for the kind of jobs they prefer. They take whatever opportunity comes because “you never know what tomorrow may bring” and it is better to have something to do than be idle. Some benefit from a powerful connection who can influence their employment. They may or may not be doing the work they enjoy but at least, they have a job.
All of these approaches have their pros and cons and can be viewed in different ways, especially regarding one’s first job. But what many people do not realise is the importance of setting the foundation for one’s career early. Your first job may not have been your first choice but is there any need to wallow in it forever? Sadly, many allow that first job to determine their career trajectory when they could be more deliberate about their careers.
The ideal way, which is the final category of career choice decisions, is to be deliberate about the jobs to seek irrespective of what you have studied or maybe even your experience if it isn’t in line with your career dreams. This is the seemingly tough bit as many people do not realise the need or importance of planning their career. It may also appear that those who are advantaged in some way (good qualifications, background, etc) are better able to plan their careers but the reality may reveal the reverse. Anyone can be deliberate about their career choices as long as they are fully aware of their options, but how many people consider this?
Many people have thus found themselves stuck in professions that they do not enjoy and not just for financial reasons. Some have also subsequently failed to evolve with the changes that have occurred in their industries and the economy. They find that they are underskilled/ underqualified for opportunities they would have preferred because they have not been deliberate about their career development. Eventually, they end up unhappy because they are not doing what they would love to do.
A friend asked for some advice about his career. He has been working in the banking industry for almost two decades but has never enjoyed his job. His lifelong dream has been to work in public relations but he has practically given that up. How would he leave the security of a job he has in pursuit of one where he would most likely have to start at the bottom of the ladder? I noted his reason and then told him his career decision would only depend on how interested he was in fulfilling his dream. I suggested he could first identify how his current skills and experience fit in with his desired role. He could also seek advice from people in the sector, and then probably take the required professional exams. There’s never any harm in exploring one’s dream.
There are many people like my friend who are stuck in jobs and roles they do not enjoy when they would rather be doing something else. Many may not even know what they would rather be doing and cheat themselves out of discovering a new life because they are not open and curious, deliberate and intentional.
Seeking a career change after being established along a career path can be tough for many people. If there are no internal opportunities where one currently works, seeking opportunities in other companies may be tough. This could partly be because external opportunities may be less favourable to experience that appears unrelated to the role one seeks for. Many people understand that it is better to seek a career change within one’s company but how often are opportunities available? An Accountant seeking to move to Communications for example could face various challenges. A bit of a conundrum.
Why do some people hold back in seeking jobs/ roles that would lead them towards a more fulfilling career?
- Some are focused on the negative voices within and around them. They would rather listen to the voices that tell them their time has passed and they should cope with what they have
- There are those with many financial responsibilities so chasing personal dreams is unimaginable when they have so many demands to meet. They probably also think their time has passed
- Some believe they do not have the right qualifications. This may be true in some instances but there could be a way around this. Some professions have professional routes like Accounting, so one doesn’t need to study the course at a higher institution to become a Professional Accountant
- Believe it or not, some are unaware of the various opportunities available to them. There are so many potential opportunities in various industries and sadly, many are not abreast of them
- And finally, some consider themselves too old to start over or even take a few steps back in position
Whilst the focus for many in times past was the academic degree/ company/ industry one worked for, the focus now is on the skills one can gain from the job/ role one takes on, and this job/ role may not even be a full-time position. When one focuses on skills, it is easier to consider changing careers.
If you have worked for at least three to five years, and you take a look at your life now, could you say that you are happy with your career path? If not, are you doing/ have you done something about it? We spend most of our adult lives working, whether, for ourselves or others, we should be happy with the career choices that we make, and this is the way I see things today.