Sunday, May 9, 2010

You Can Have The Career You've Always Wanted

“Life has no limitations, except the ones you make” – Les Brown.

How’s your career working out? As you look back, have you achieved the goals you set yourself or do you regret the opportunities that have passed you by?

Many people give up on their career aspirations, which become distant memories from a seemingly past life or long lost childhood dream. Some lose faith and give up at the first hurdle because, for example, they aren’t accepted for their ‘dream’ job or don’t get that first promotion – occasionally blaming the system or someone else, rather than analysing what happened, assessing why things went wrong, fixing the problem and trying again.

In my early teens I wanted to be a Marine Biologist; the trouble was I was useless at Biology – which didn’t bode well for my dream from the outset. I also wasn’t your model student, studying just seemed to get in the way of fun. It was my choice, even at that age – I could have had my dream if I was prepared to work for it – but it just appeared too damn hard.

As it turns out I might not have enjoyed it anyway and my career path, with the usual potholes and a few detours, actually took me on a great journey of learning into a career I thoroughly enjoy.

From my experience these nine steps will help you have the career you always wanted;

1. Know who you are, challenge yourself and create short and long-term goals. Not having goals is like going on a journey without a destination.

2. Never give up – the easy route is not always the most rewarding. Accept that you will be challenged as you pursue your ideal career, so accept it, it won’t always be a walk in the park. You hardly ever get anything worthwhile handed to you on a plate – you’ll have to work really hard and if you don’t succeed at the first attempt, try, try again (borrowed from Robert the Bruce).

3. Don’t burn your bridges – I’ve burnt a few and regret it to this day. Your career will often be influenced by who you know and who knows you. Your network of contacts (from the past to the present) can often influence your career.

4. Make sure that your friends are true friends and that they’ll tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. Honest feedback keeps your feet placed firmly on the ground and the head out of the clouds.

5. Try new things – you never know what new opportunities might open up for you.

6. Never stop learning – that doesn’t necessarily mean formal courses with exams and things (I still don’t particularly like exams to this day) – but don’t let stubbornness or pride get in the way of doing what you have to do to succeed – humility can be a healthy experience.

7. Know your strengths and weaknesses and the impact these have on your future. Where your weaknesses restrict you reaching your goals – either work on your weaknesses or change your goals. Just don’t mindlessly continue on a journey where you’ll never reach your destination - that’s like taking a flight with enough fuel for 2,000 km’s when you need to fly 10,000 km’s – it isn’t going to end well.

8. There is definitely a degree of luck – you just have to keep your eyes and ears open for the opportunity. It’s my belief that we miss opportunities every day.

9. It’s never too late - whether in your thirties, forties, fifties and beyond, you can change your career and realise your dream. Why? Because you’ll be working towards something you want to achieve and will be mature enough to know that it won’t be easy but will be worth the effort.

McLoughney (2009) reminds us that “you run the risk of missing out on important opportunities because you haven’t completed the necessary research or developed the required skills. Without a plan you simply hope that your career will move forward. To become a master of today’s overcrowded job market you need to change your mindset, become visionary and exploit the factors that make you different, capable and of winning work” (p.70).

Having read this article, take some time to look at your career and to set yourself new goals for the years ahead.

Remember the words of Kerry Packer, “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal,” so make the most of it. Good luck and enjoy the journey.


Kanter, J. (2003). Planning and Managing Your Career. Information Strategy: The Executive’s Journal, Vol. 19, Issue 2, p.43-48.

McLoughney, S. (2009). Staying Ahead Planning your Career the Entrepreneurial Way. Accountancy Ireland, Vol. 41, Issue 6, p.70-71.

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