Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career changes, career transitions 1: thinking through and planning for a career path and work life

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 16, 2013

When you look back at your life, chances are that everything you have done seems to fit together as a pattern, and in retrospect it does and for pretty much any path of decisions, reactions and actions that you have taken. I add of course that if you had made different decisions and taken different actions coming out of them – taken different early career jobs, decided to live in different places geographically … you would have a perhaps very different life’s path to look back on but one that would still fit together in the same general way as your actual life path and with a similar overriding pattern and with everything following an equally compelling underlying logic.

Flipping this around and only considering work life and careers here and considering them prospectively instead of retrospectively, we face decisions and choices, and sometimes we can see where they hold long term consequence in selecting the path we would take. But sometimes even a seemingly small and insignificant choice can have a life-long and life changing consequence. Sometimes the little things continue and grow with time into the major factors that shape and form a career path.

This might mean taking a specific summer internship opportunity in college, or even a part time job in high school that gets us thinking in terms of a specific industry and even a specific job type and career path from that. This can mean taking or not taking some specific work assignment opportunity that is offered us at a job we are currently working on, and with that decision determining whether we continue along some specific work and career path. My point here is that we face decisions large and small and we do not always know at the time which is which as for scale of significance for us. But we face many, and early on at least, seemingly myriad possible career path futures. So I write this at least in part thinking of people starting out, but I also write this with people in mind who are further along a work life and career path. And I begin this thinking about pattern and flow of experience and of decisions made, consciously and by default – and for those, decisions in effect backed into. And if we are honest with ourselves we all face and think through some decisions but back into and simply continue through upon many, less examined decisions too. Think momentum there if nothing else, and the limited ranges of option and consideration that it compels.

We build the career paths we actually follow in this way and through a literal myriad of day to day decisions, large and small. This is my first posting to a series on building a career rather than simply working day to day, and with forethought and planning so the career path you do end up having taken is one that meets your needs and that you can find satisfaction and meaning in as you pursue it.

• Ultimately, building a meaningful career is all about taking a long term perspective in what you do and making meaningful, conscious decisions and both as to where you are and where you seek to go, and how you would best get there.

I am going to finish this posting with a final thought, that I first became compelling aware of when I was a graduate student working towards my PhD, and that has proven of sustaining value for me since then.

• Think of where you would like to be and what you would like to be doing in five years. Now what could you do today, that in however small a way might help you reach that?

Five years is arbitrary and is simply the timeframe that seemed to make sense for me at that time and under the specific circumstances I was in. But the basic principle holds and I would argue, for more than just me. In a fundamental sense, this series is about fleshing that out as a set of tools for thinking through and planning a career and for following through on it with the tradeoffs and decisions and benchmarking and other details that would go into strategically developing and pursuing a career path.

I am go to start that process in my next series installment where I will focus on the issues and questions of really thinking through and understanding where you are now – but not just from an immediate here and now perspective but rather as a staging point for developing a coherent and meaningful career path from the here and now, moving forward. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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