Each day as I’m making the trek to and from work it ends on a road that is chock full of potholes thanks to the abuse it takes from the commercial trucks making the same journey. It’s quite interesting to watch all of the 4 wheel vehicles jockeying to avoid the massive potholes that are often side by side, veering into the other lane or snaking along to avoid the risk of a necessary realignment or new tires. Every now and then they will notice that a new divot has formed but it’s too late to swerve and so the tires sink into this hard bed of disaster…such is life!
That’s right, such is life in the professional world. Careers are rarely paths of straight, perfectly paved asphalt. More often they are bending, winding, and pothole filled with a few fender benders along the way. The difference is how we navigate and the impact that we allow the potholes to have on our vehicle.
There was a movie called, “Why Did I Get Married?” that was fairly popular a few years ago. The title gives the obvious impression of what you will see for two hours. Another movie that could easily be made is “Why did I Take This Job?”. There are few guarantees in life and I would put jobs and companies at the top ten on the low guarantee list. I often hear and have experienced the feeling of professionals struggling with a career choice made. Some linger on choice, consistently reflecting on their “mistake”, while I EXPECT it to happen to everyone at least once and think it’s necessary for growth.
A recent graduate questioned his decision to accept a position with one engineering firm over another. His reasons were numerous and genuine, his quest was the magic feeling that this was a guaranteed “right” decision. My question was, “how do you know that something is a sure thing?” His response: “That’s my problem, I never feel ‘sure’. Maybe he was looking for too much. The Oprah Aha moment doesn’t come in every situation! Just about every decision we make is based on a combination of what we know (research, etc.) with a healthy dose of what we feel: intuition, emotion, gut feeling, an inkling…whatever you want to call it! The facts that you know are based merely on the information that you have. When it comes to career decisions, after you’ve read Glassdoor reviews, interviewed the employer, spoken to other employees (a rarity in today’s corporate climate), and weighed your options the finality is based on “your gut”. You ask for assistance from friends and families and they will give you advice but more often than not you’ll hear “what’s your gut telling you?” or “go with your gut!” By the way, going with your gut is obviously popular since the phrase results in 186,000,000 Google results, at press time….just saying.
The decision to study one major over another during college is rarely based on the fact that this is what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life, it’s the fact that it’s something that interests you wrapped in the feeling that you want to do this. How many of us are actually doing what we planned to do as 17-year-old high school graduates? Even more interesting is how few of us stick with the major that we chose during our freshmen year….did we panic? For the most part, I would say no. Our youthful energy and flexibility convinced us that change was okay and we didn’t have to have a sure thing. Why is that so hard to accept with a career decision?
If you’re struggling with what you want to be when you grow up, BE COMFORTED, at some stage in the game most of us will (or are)–many times over. We will evaluate and re-evaluate at different stages in our lives, based on our renewed needs and focus. What works at 21 will not at 35 and again at 50. Know this and in the meantime: Take risks, Trust Your Gut, Make Decisions, and Don’t Look Back! If things don’t pan out as perfectly as you planned…rinse, wash, repeat.