By Cynthia Sutherland
“You can’t create the future by clinging to the past.” So says a recent Delta Airlines TV commercial. I agree. We create our future by defining desires, setting goals and moving toward them. You create with small steps or a big leap.
In job search, the goal is often to find a new job – quickly. But since a job choice has implications for your future, it pays to be clear about what you really want going forward.
You may believe that this job market limits your choices. At the same time, you do have leeway in choosing your career (and life) direction.
I have friends on various career paths, those who:
• Deliberately retired early to be true to their desires. I know, they could somehow afford to, and many can’t. But those I know who adjusted their lifestyles stayed true to their life goals. I admire that, knowing and holding to your life goals.
• Took the first job that came along. It’s scary to be out in the job market. They responded to time and financial pressures. Some of those job gambles paid off; some didn’t. They or their new employers miscalculated “fit.” Or the new employer reorganized (again) and eliminated their jobs after a short time.
• Waited and angled for the same or next level job. Some achieved those goals of “more of the same.” Good for them. But did they think about what they wanted? And some are still looking because the job market re-defined the value of a lot of careers.
• Embraced a different mix of volunteer efforts, part-time or temporary jobs, and even internships in mid-career. Some enhanced their skills or changed direction by going back to school, adding certifications or degrees, or even started entrepreneurial ventures.
• Defined what they wanted in a career as they went along, trying things to see how it would go. They refined from what worked and discarded what didn’t. I think Generation Y is known for this attitude toward serial jobs and careers. But other generations are learning from them AND the economy.
More often, though, we toddle along and stick with a job choice because it’s comfortable. We settle. But some have a clear and undeniable talent that must be pursued. Or they nurture a desire for a different path that just bubbles up at some point.
And when a career choice is made for us, e.g., being disconnected from a job involuntarily, passive styles suddenly change. Now we need to actively make choices; that’s really an opportunity. You can feel the elation when you deliberately set new goals.
Where am I in all this? Job change led me to a process of reinventing myself. It’s ongoing. I previously chose a career-oriented path that was satisfying, very typical for baby boomers. But a job shift caused me to re-think my life goals, not just job choices.
That led me to adopt the mixed path: some volunteer work, looking for part-time or temporary work, and moving into some new directions, like doing a little consulting, and writing for fun.
Mine is not a unique path, but it responds to the times, the opportunities, and activates new possibilities.
Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.
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