There is a dangerous careers myth that exists in society and that just won’t go away - the myth that the most successful people are those who know what they want to do from an early age and pursue their end goal with tunnel vision. Of course, for some people this ‘all or nothing’ approach to career planning works out just fine. But there are many reasons why it may not and why the true achievers, when it comes to work-related success, may well be those who have tried a few things along the way.
The last few decades have seen immense shifts in the careers landscape; the death of the ‘job for life’ and the consequent rise in job insecurity, the impact of monumental technological advances, and the emergence of a truly global job market to name but a few reasons for this. And yet the ‘gold standard’ for achievement still seems to be routed in the type of careers progression that is associated with generations before. People - there is a big wide professional world out there waiting to be explored. With this in mind, what circumstances may lead to a bit of justified career-hopping?
The pressure on young people these days is immense. In order to get the pick of the graduate jobs you are pretty much expected to have gained significant career-relevant experience throughout your time at university. As the necessity of internships increases, students are being forced earlier and earlier to make life affirming career decisions. And yet the ability to make the right choices, in my opinion, depends on a mature level of self-awareness coupled with a substantial knowledge of the reality of the world of work - of which your average 20 year old may well have neither. There is a good argument, therefore, suggesting that the best way to spend your first few years of work is simply to try a few different things and work out which fits best.
Career fatigue can be a dangerous thing. Not only can it lead to boredom, but this can develop into underperformance and, ultimately, loss of professional confidence. And long gone are the days when all recruiters necessarily value the candidate who has stuck with the same company and/or work specialism for 15 years; in the absence of significant promotion it can make a worker appear staid and unambitious whereas change may be seen as evidence of a dynamic and adaptable employee. Sometimes the right thing to do is to try something new and breathe a bit of fresh air back into your working life, whether that is through internal opportunities or through a bigger, braver, leap into the unknown.
How many of us can say we are the same person at 30/40/50 that we were at 20? For sure, our knowledge and experience will have grown but our priorities are also evolving. Perhaps the need for a fat pay cheque has been replaced by a desire to be part of a bigger societal contribution? Perhaps two decades in the work place have taught us that we need more autonomy or challenge than we are being given? Perhaps our needs as a parent, a spouse, a carer… have had an impact on what is now important. In anyone’s career journey - whether they largely satisfied or not - it can be a good idea to do a regular audit of your career values to see how your current role matches up to them and, perhaps, what needs to be different.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having goals. There will always be people for whom their true vocation is identified early on and it all works out fine and dandy. But by asking “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and continuing to push the idea of ‘one career for life’ are we missing the point of what career success is all about? What happens, for example, when this dream isn’t achieved or if the working reality is disappointing? It is so important that our clients can understand that this doesn’t signify failure and that the ability to pick themselves up and start something new - something more relevant - is success in itself. This requires a brand of guidance that focuses on ongoing career planning not on one single decision. Perhaps the best way we can really help is to ensure that we are equipping our clients with the professional agility needed to successfully traverse the changing career landscape according to their own changing needs.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £60. Mock interviews cost £50.