There are three main questions when it comes to career management: Where do you come from? Where are you today? Where do you want to go?
We don’t have full control over our lives and choices; there are many situations, opportunities and people that are beyond our reach and control. There is no straight road ahead of us that enables us to determine the route to follow, take a bearing and start walking. We now mention a much more complicated geography when talking about careers. There are mountains, hills, unpassable rivers and cliffs ahead of us. Even if we set our route to the North, the obstacles on the way make it impossible to follow; and we follow North-east some days while North-west some others. But sometimes when we lose track, we might find ourselves heading south. I share below the three principles to keep in mind to stay in route in terms of career management.
The greatest skill those who can manage their careers have is the ability to navigate in this complicated geography.
Push Vs. Pull
I have heard career stories from thousands of people as a part of my job. I can tell you this as a person who is about to make his fifth career change: There are difficult goals, difficult people and difficult conditions in every work environment. There are environments in corporate life that interfere with personal life, keep one from having a balanced life, require long and hard working periods, and sometimes give unrealistic goals. Excluding environments where one is under the risk of getting permanent psychological harm (life is too short for this); not pushing but pulling factors should convince one to change jobs. No matter how harsh the conditions are, it only brings regret to act on the feeling of getting rid of something. Pushing factors shouldn’t govern a person, but the attraction of the pulling ones should be determinant.
How do the new job or conditions that come after resignation speak to the feeling of pointfulness? How advantageous is it financially? Is it compatible with the person’s own strengths and weaknesses? Does it even match the direction he wants to follow? Will he get better as he does his new duty or job? What are the “pulling” factors?
So it should be the pulling factors that are effective in making the decision, not the pushing ones. Otherwise you might find yourself in unwanted conditions after a relief of 1-2 months.
In other words;
It doesn’t matter what you escape from but what you run towards.
In trainings I have given on Staying Happy by Questioning, I ask people to tell about themselves without mentioning themselves, and their current title and duties. I see a difficulty in answering this question in everyone (including myself). People start asking questions like “What remains of me if I take away my job title and duty of today?” Then I don’t need to add anything else. As I wrote before, it is not answering but asking questions that is important.
There is no problem in telling your short-term stories; telling where we are today, what we have done in the past and what we want to do in the couple of years to follow. But it is not as easy to discover our long-term stories. Those who put a lot of effort into this win more both in life and in career. They know where they want to see themselves in the following years (although they don’t detail it completely), what kind of skills they want to gain and what kind of a person they want to be. Most importantly, they have discovered what their values are.
Those who know their long-term stories have the advantage of evaluating their every career move as in “Does it fit my story?” or “Does it fit my values?” and take strong steps that don’t divert from the route. This gives them significant power in career management.It is not always possible to go straight all the time. Career paths are full of unsurpassable rivers as in nature.
Total Benefit Analysis
The first difficulty in this matter is that we cannot directly compare the benefits that can be calculated in a concrete and clear way (working hours, location of the work-place, commuting distance, salary, bonuses, stimulus packages etc.) and those that cannot easily be quantified (feeling of accomplishment that the job brings, its suitability to the person, extend to which it answers the need to be doing something meaningful in the long run, richness of the relationships built with co-workers etc.).
People tend to decide based on concrete and clearly calculable benefits when deciding to switch to a new job. I can say this based on the hundreds of hiring and offering processes I have had the chance of witnessing. Yet the irony here is that people reach the clarity of mind that can analyse the abstract and concrete benefits holistically only after starting working in the job. Dissatisfaction with both the concrete and abstract benefits that I have listed above play a part in the job-change decision and in career management.
A person can holistically view the pros and cons of the situation he is in only as he lives, contacts people, and works on different areas possibly with the ability to think long-term. Of course the skill here is to be able to see this before making the decision, not after making the decision of changing jobs and going through the experience.
Holistic Decisions (concrete + abstract)
People who are good at drawing their life routes and career management can see the concrete benefits correctly. They analyse the decisions they make holistically.
In addition to these three main points; I have seen that being able to make the right sacrifices when necessary and going after learning opportunities at times instead of financial power have contributed a lot in the pasts of successful people.
With hope that we all can stay in route in the hustle of corporate life…