Two weeks ago I was asked if there is a certain strategy one should follow in order to make a great career or to get the dream job. My short answer was, “You can think of a strategy for everything, if you want!” Personally I believe that finding the right job and following a satisfying career path is not necessarily the result of a sophisticated strategy. It is the result of being open and receptive for different options, going with the flow and being aware of the own abilities and shortcomings.
It all starts with a suitable education. The funny thing is that in these times there is such an amazing number of different studies and training courses available all over the world that most people are simply overwhelmed and not able to make a decision. What is suitable? Something that supports the interests of an individual? Something that guarantees an income at the end of the day? Something that has great future perspective? Something so rare that you’ll become a highly requested specialist no matter what?
Having trouble to pick the right out of a thousand options requires to do some unconventional thinking.
What does that mean? We need to filter. We need to start at the other end and first define what we definitely don’t want to do. Choice by elimination. Experience shows that this is much easier than to determine what we want in the first place.
So once we got a kind of suitable education, what is the next step? There are people that have a very clear idea about what they want in their professional life. In general that’s great, because they don’t seem to have trouble determining what they want to do in the future. But there is one important question that I always pose in this context. “Why?”Why does someone want to do a certain thing, reach a certain position, follow a certain career path? Is it a result of in-depth thinking about what suits the individual best in terms of talents, interests and standard of living? Or is it more or less a result of society and family influences that let the individual make a decision that might be completely biased without even recognizing? In case of the latter there is a high likelihood of the individual being frustrated, unhappy, dissatisfied or even burned out at a later stage of his/her career.
Anyway, the time of finding the first job has come. The ones that have a very clear understanding of what they want and where they are going to work have only two options: either it works out or not. If not, they have a big problem, because their strict focus has narrowed down their possibilities of choice to a minimum. The other group, the ones that have no clue at all where to start have a hard time, too. Again there are decisions to make about where to apply, what direction to go, which positions to consider seriously etc. Ultimately it is only a matter of getting started and of doing something at all. From the experience of a recruiter and hiring manager I can only say that in the end it doesn’t really matter how a career started.
Just do something to start with!
In fact it is much easier to find the own way by starting somewhere and making first working experiences, because that will surface what a person is able to do, good at and actually loving. And what’s next? What about the following steps? This is very much dependent on the experience with the first job. If you like what you do in general the next job will be a more senior version of the current one or a kind of logical development of it. If not, the search starts again. And most probably you will be looking for something where you can apply the experiences you made so you don’t need to start from scratch totally again. But what if you can’t find another job that seems interesting or attractive to you? What if you are not accepted for the jobs you would like to do? In many cases this has to do with the image a person has about a certain job or even about him/herself. This image could be right, but there is a big chance that it is not completely realistic.
So here is my take on this: Sometimes we need to trust in what life is presenting to us. There might be some opportunities around the corner that have never been seen because we have been so busy with searching for what we think we need to do. Sometimes other people see something in us that we never have thought about. Sometimes an opportunity comes along that needs to be taken even if it is not totally in line with our former plans. Sometimes life sends us a sign and the only thing we need to do is being open for it in order to be able to receive it. We typically talk about pure coincidences that happened to us in life. Maybe that is not completely true… If you talk with people who made their career and you ask them how they got where they are today most of the people will not answer that it has all be planned like that. The overwhelming majority will admit that they took the chances that were presented to them rather than held onto some plans they made decades ago. In a way it all happened coincidentally they will say. Well, maybe not completely…!?!