A lot of young people including myself fell into the trap of making 20-year detailed plans of what their career path is going to be. We were led to believe that we must follow certain steps and milestones on a specific timeline with specific companies, industries, job titles and degrees to achieve greatness.
This line of thinking is often dangerous and usually counterproductive to those that truly want a successful and rewarding long term career. More often than not there is a underlying sense of anxiety and desperation in your production and everyday interactions with those you work with because you are trying to follow this "career path".
People with this belief are not operating at their full potential and end up not enjoying their careers because they can never be happy with what they are doing in the present moment. You are actually less likely to have a satisfying career if you are operating this way.
Why Your Plans Usually Fail
- You must be flexible and nimble because the world is constantly evolving and changing
- Opportunities arise that you could not have anticipated and taking them may be your best option at a certain point in time
- You as a person may change over time, your values and beliefs are constantly changing through various life experiences and lessons learned
Planning Still Is Important
It is still very important to have career goals and a general direction on where you want your career to go, such as an industry, function, specialization or an organization that you are interested in. However, it is more important that for you to be present, develop good professional habits, learn as much as possible, contribute, and be as valuable as possible to your organization. In addition, it is very important that you find great mentors and establish meaningful relationships. If you combine all these elements together and consistently operate in this manner, I guarantee that you will have a successful career...as long as you don't mess up your life by doing something stupid.
"Well I still see some successful people that have followed a pre-defined career path, isn't this the least risky way of achieving success?"
It seems like everyone who became successful followed a specific path to get there, but I can assure you this is far from reality. It only looks like they followed a "Path" because it is always easier to connect the dots looking back in the past as opposed to trying to predict the future. So, I would advise you to stop making 20 year detailed plans and just take a deep breath...relax and lose the anxious energy.
Presence and being well-rounded is key!
The way to go is to enjoy the present moment and commit to be the best professional you can every single day you show up to the office. If you remain consistent and grow as a well-rounded person, opportunities will come your way for you to capitalize. The key is to remain present, live for the now...All you can do is learn from the past, live for today and plan for the future.
I learned this advice from a former executive in the real estate industry and many other senior leaders within my current organization. Many of them have said the same things and will tell you that they never followed a 20-year detailed plan. Carefully study the careers of successful people and understand what they did daily, I can assure this is where you can find the comfort in knowing what you need to do to make it in your field.