Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 14: professional growth and thinking in terms of a fuller range of career options and choices

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 30, 2013

This is my fourteenth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-323 for Parts 1-13.)

Robert Frost penned a poem that seems appropriate to cite here and for this posting: The Road Not Taken. It starts with a traveler approaching a fork in a wooded road, and with him approaching that decision point with desire to explore and travel both paths. We face decisions and make choices in life that arise in much the same way as forks in our roads, and where we only really get to follow one of those choices. One place where we are certain to face that sort of decision is in our work lives and careers. The poem ended with the lines:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

If the protagonist of this poem had taken the road that in that quick appraisal had seemed to be more traveled instead, then that would have made all the difference too. Whichever path we take, whichever decisions we make and career choices we pursue make all of the difference. And either way, we almost always do have at least something of an option to make whichever choice we do take a right one for us, and even if that means searching for and pursuing other subsequent forks in the road and deciding again, and perhaps again after that.

I wrote Part 13: understanding and strategically responding to new work positions offered as one more entry in a succession of postings on finding those forks in the road and on making the decision as to which way to turn and proceed. This immediately followed two series installments, (Part 11 and Part 12), in which I discussed career development for people for whom a move into management and supervisory responsibility would be best. And then I ended Part 13 by citing one of my early postings: A Critique of the Peter Principle – career as a series of growth and transition phases.

I stated there that I would connect the line of discussion that I am developing here, back to that posting and I still intend on doing so. But I wanted to do so in the context of choices made and paths taken, and the context of how we each have and need to take ownership of our own careers.

I wrote my above cited Peter Principle posting in terms of training and preparing candidates for advancement so that they can be ready to take a next step. None of us live or work in a vacuum and outside support, training, mentoring and guidance can make a great deal of the difference between “ready to succeed” and “set up for likely failure.” I have reread that posting a number of times since writing it and have thought about it and my reasoning behind it a lot, and I freely acknowledge that it would be possible to construe it as a discussion of being led and managed in our careers and career paths. Here, I balance that by noting that ultimately, we have to manage our own career paths and our own lives. The good news is that even when we feel ourselves to be hemmed in by outside circumstances, we do still have choices. A big part of that is in openly looking for and pursuing the forks in the road that are and that can become available to us – and even if that means a career path change.

I write that as someone who has confronted seeming impenetrable barriers to my career path and work life, as for example when I moved from doing and managing hospital-based clinical and basic biomedical research, to working in information technology and the internet. Many others have made similar and even more extreme path changes and have taken what from their perspectives were much less traveled roads than I did – and they have succeeded and flourished at this.

I will simply add that in my case, I planned my next steps when I faced these challenges in terms of my transferrable skills and in terms of how best to apply them, and to market them in new settings. I found and pursued training and retraining opportunities and I actively networked to make myself a good candidate for the types of positions that I would pursue next. And I looked for those forks in the road I was on and potential forks that would lead me to new career paths that I could find satisfying and fulfilling, and where I could succeed and flourish. That does not always work, but if you take a wrong turn, take that as a learning experience and move on from there. Try again, and this time with the wiser eyes that learning curve experiences provide.

I have worked in both the for-profit and the nonprofit sectors and also with not for profit businesses and organizations. A great deal of diversity can be found within these general workplace categories for business mission and vision, and for corporate culture, but even given that, there are commoner patterns that serve to distinguish between them, and particularly between for-profits and working for them, and nonprofits and not for profits as a combined group and working for them. I am going to discuss mission and vision and corporate culture in my next series installment, and finding and pursuing a career path where you can comfortably fit in as a member of what for you would be a compatible and supportive workplace community.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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