Pursuing your career with a 20/20 vision

Addiction to the paycheck is probably the most debilitating and wide spread addiction there is. While not always spoken of in the same realm as the more serious addictions, the end result is comparable in several ways.

Consider this – why else would we enter into an altered state of mind every time we take up a job, and forget or give up all the need to continually challenge ourselves and grow professionally? Or even how we pick our jobs in the first place? Doesn’t it sound similar to be under the influence of something?

If that sounds like bit of a stretch, it certainly how it was to me.

As a recovering addict, I am asking myself, how would I approach my career, if I were to reset the clock by ten years?

Based on the mistakes made and observed, I’d make three deliberate choices in how I approach my career.

    1. Be intentional in how I make my job choices. For most of us, our job choices are not conscious, well articulated and strategized in how we pick them. Some amongst us, have a generic big picture in their mind as to what jobs we should go after. Most often it is based on current skill levels and other immediate compulsions. Not based on a plan of where I want to get to in ‘x’ number of years. We use the compass as opposed to the GPS. With a compass, you know you are moving in a particular direction. With a GPS, you start with a specific intention of where you want to get to, and take the path that will get you there. While some exceptions exist, this strategy is applicable for the vast majority of us. Bottom line, be clear about how you want your career to be. Where do you want to get to? Have the plan on paper – as early on as life would permit – and then go about navigating your jobs through it. With this approach, you are no longer switching jobs for a better pay or benefits, but rather making that move because the map says it is the right thing to do.
  1. Be mindful that each job is a journey and not a destination. I am looking back at each of my jobs and have realized that is how approached every one of them. As a destination. The moment I got into the job, I got all excited, jumped into it head-on and completely immersed myself in the day-to-day pressures of it. Completely. So much so, when you finally wake up one fine day, you realized that the world has moved on. While I excelled in each of my jobs and over-delivered on its expectations, I simply lost sight of where I was headed. More on this, below.
  2. Be flexible. Both in terms of staying the course to reach your destination. And to alter the course or the destination as you mature in your life and interest areas. Map or not, life will throw its curve balls. Expecting them and being willing enough to rough it out should be part of the strategy. A journey is seldom a straight line. Likewise, be willing to accept the fact that your interests could change. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon the map. You just need another one. Redraw the plan and follow it.

The downsides of my addiction dawned on me when I came up for air and realized that

  1. I had stopped learning / reading and failed to keep myself updated on what was going on around the world, both in my area of expertise, industry and the world in general.
  2. I stopped networking. My friends were my team members and those my department had to work with. The rest of the world did not exist for me.
  3. Lost sight of my passion for non-work related interests. I allowed myself to be so consumed by my job, that my hobbies faded away into the distance and I became a robot.

We typically blame all these failures on the pressures of the job. Especially in those high-pressure jobs. I know, I did it for years. Blaming the job for your shortcomings and lack of action is career myopia. Being shortsighted about life choices.

The only time when people ponder upon these three tenets is when there is a life changing decision that jolts them into existence. Like for example –

  • You have been part of a downsizing of the company
  • You realize that you are getting nowhere with your job
  • There simply is no passion to get to work anymore.

In each of these cases, we wake up when it is a wee bit late and then fret about the choices available to us. Age, financial situations, relationship issues that affect geographical considerations are only a few of the reasons why we all need to be mindful of how to stay abreast of our career choices.

If you were smart enough, you would simply use a GPS that shows traffic conditions ahead. An accident a mile away will necessitate a course correction right now. By being cognizant of where your industry is headed, latest trends, state of the competition etc. you can continually fine-tune your strategy to come out winning even in the light of adversities.

You could be myopic about your career. Or build one with 20/20 clarity.

NB: I’d love to hear competing views on this topic. This is just one point of view. Mine. What is yours? Would love to learn.

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