To switch jobs, industries, or go back to school … what’s the right career path? It’s no wonder you are plagued by this question. It promotes a cyclic path of thought errors because it’s the wrong question to be asking!
The Wrong Question
First, do not ask yourself, “What is my right career path?” Why not, you ask? Because it is not relevant. It is like asking, “What is the right child I’d like to have?” Many answers exist, yet you can always find resistance in those answers. And you might attempt to apply logic, data and evidence. Or you might resort to a decision matrix to help convince yourself you are making the ‘right’ choice. See Post #40 if you suffer from career indecision.
Secondly, this question is a closed-minded question. It presupposes there exists one right and many wrongs. I challenge you to rid this idea and get it out of your head. If a job is less than desirable, or if it did not turn out as expected, you didn’t lose. Learning is knowledge, even when it does not align with your desired outcomes. If you walked away from a job with newfound knowledge, it was worth it.
Let’s suppose you ask yourself different questions, questions that open your mind. For example:
- I have an interest in A, B, C and D. What if I commit to pursuing a job in each area, one at a time?
- If I get a job trying such-and-such, what is the absolute worst that might happen?
- I’m interested in job Z, but if I never try it out, how would I ever know that I like it?
- When I think about my future self in 2, 3, or 5 years, will I regret not trying __?
- Isn’t it great to know what I don’t enjoy as much as it is to know what I do enjoy?
- I can’t go wrong as long as I’m learning something new; trying job ABC will teach me __.
Failing Ahead of Time
There is a difference between someone performing a job ‘just because they can’ vs fulfilling their calling in life. In my experience, few people come to realize and engage in their calling. Do not be misled by the people who have been performing their jobs for years on end.
In fact, I would argue that careers are fluid, agile, always adapting and changing based on individual and business needs. One day your preferred title might be risk analyst, the next it could be marketing manager.
And I would caution you to be aware of the mindset trap that there is one ‘right’ career path. Several kinds of jobs could fall under the umbrella of being ‘right.’ And all of these ‘right’ jobs would create different ‘paths’ for you. Therefore, there is no such thing as the ‘right career path’. That is a self-limiting belief that might have you banging your head against a wall.
Keep your mind open, not closed. You must try different things to know what you like. It’s okay to do so, especially given today’s dynamic work environments. Every position will offer you new insights and knowledge – and that is something you will take wherever you go.
It’s just as important to know what you don’t like as it is to know what you do like.
If you never try, you are failing ahead of time. Failing ahead of time is easier and more comfortable than putting yourself out there, risking a new adventure. Open yourself up to the idea that careers are not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, rather, they all provide ample opportunities for growth, development and learning.
It is not the career itself that matters as much as the person you become while performing it.