Occasional Fireworks Or A City Of Lights

In my little over nine years of HR related experience, of which 6 years included the recruitment function (the rest of my career was, and still is centered on L&D, OD, Learning and the like) I have interviewed a fair number of young people. When asked the question about their future, if successful in the interview, the answer, more often than not, would be, “to become the manager within a year or two”.

There is absolutely no harm in gunning for more senior positions, it is expected, and everyone needs a challenge and stretch, after some time. However, I have witnessed some of these young people enter the workplace, and with close observation, I have seen some of them fail to take the necessary accountability towards their own development, but rather wait on the organisation to create opportunities for them (to grow). I have seen many of them rely on the organisation to develop them, while they remain oblivious of the many opportunities that surround them, including opportunities from outside of the organisation. Their minds (and eyes) are fixated on what their employer ‘should’ be doing for them.

I have come to realise that many young (and some older) professionals do not have their career path (clearly) mapped out, because they either do not know that they need or they have an ambiguously structured career path. In the absence of a clear and well mapped career path, any and everything looks attractive and relevant, whilst the real development opportunities are missed. In the process, great resources, such as time, are wasted (to redeem time, is near impossible – this might be a great topic for another time).

In this article, I would like to briefly focus your attention on what constitutes an ambiguous career path. It is not necessarily purposefully poorly structured, it could simply be, as a result of limited knowledge or limited guidance on how to structure one (I remember a time when was not clear about my own). Any career path that lacks personal development or one that places (your) personal development in the hands of others, is a path that will not lead to long-term expansion of (your) career; it will, in fact, expose you to a number of short lived (and maybe exciting) experiences. Some of the many reasons most people omit development in their career paths, is that they are hoping for a quick climb up the ladder, without acquiring the knowledge and getting the necessary up skilling. It is understandable, however, given the age that we are in (4th industrial revolution), everything is fast paced, and people today want things faster and quicker, because they have options. These options are literally at the tips of their fingers, especially those of the generation that seems to define the times (millennials). Nevertheless, certain principles remain, regardless of technology (and may even because of technology that) people should be more eager to learn, and develop their skills, to remain relevant and maintain their competitive edge. Perhaps one of the most fitting proverbs, with reference to the subject line, is the ever popular old age French proverb, stating that, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, well, neither was a career.

If there are two skills and perhaps one habit, to acquire, in order to build your career, I would say patience and tenacity and (the habit being) a growth mindset. Patience and tenacity will further imbue in you the strength to resist the urge to chase after- and / or settle for-, occasional fireworks. These two skills will keep reminding you of your vision and they will also empower you in times of personal and professional life disruptions. Patience will allow you to pause and think; tenacity will remind you why you took the path, to start with.

A growth mindset will keep you curious. When you fall, you will fall forward, and when you fail, you fail upwards. A growth mindset will remind you that every experience, no matter how tough, lonely or painful it is; it creates room for expansion, renovation, maturity and change, as you build your career. This habit will enable you to keep building, even when the lights in your city are magnificent and are attracting a lot of interest, you will always be seeking ways to improve. Success is not an occasion, it’s a daily thoughts and actions, thereafter. The first engineering work is in understanding that, it (success) does not happen overnight. It requires a well-designed blueprint (career path). Do not settle for occasional fireworks, rather focus on building a city of lights. Who does not want to stand on the mount top or glance through an aircraft window, to see the shimmering lights of their own empire? We all do, right. So pave your path strategically, and develop yourself, purposefully. Keep growing, keep evolving and keep moving forward