Friday, June 14, 2013

Following Your Career GPS: Recalculating to Keep Yourself on Track

Recalculating, make a right at the next light. Recalculating, make a left at the next intersection.
With GPS in a car, there is no need to get lost anymore. I now live in Saudi Arabia, and of all the items that I brought over, my Google Maps app is something I never leave the house without.  
Try following direction and the entire street markings are in Arabic. So if I am looking for Exit 8 this is how the signs look: ٨مخرج
Sometimes, our careers can be like traveling in a foreign country. We get lost, we make the wrong turn, and sometimes end up in a destination that is far from our original target.
Having a career GPS system
The more we try to get back on track, the more lost we become. Then we make what sometimes is our biggest mistake — we ask someone for directions and they have no clue but they give us directions anyway. I call this “the blind leading the blind.”

I shudder sometimes when I see someone who is in career turmoil and they reach out to a friend who has been doing the same job (probably since college) and is totally clueless. Their career is in “flux,” but they go to the clueless friend anyway.
Back to my GPS: I got “lost” this week when I kept making the wrong turn, but with the miracle of the global positioning system, I kept getting back on track. No matter how many time I got turned around, I was immediately put back on track.
It made me think of how wonderful it would be if we had a career GPS system with us at all times. No matter how many times we choose what we think is the right track, our internal GPS would recalculate and put us back on track.
Like a lot of you, I have friends that are very dear to me, but the problem is they keep repeating the same career dilemma story over and over again.  Recalculating!
They are in a job they dislike immensely, yet they keep moving in the same direction.Recalculating! They got laid off a few years back and they still discuss the particulars of it and how it happened.  Recalculating!
When my daughter, Lauren, was in junior high, they had a phrase — “talk to the hand.” Today, I would redo that phrase to say — Recalculate!
When you keep telling the same career narrative over and over, it is wasted energy. My question is what are you going to do about?
If the response is that there is nothing they can do about it, it proves that it is probably time to move on. If you have plotted out your career destination, you should just recalculate and get back on track. Now it may that it is not that easy to get back on track, but it is that easy.
The big issue is that so many times we never get the destination right. And if we do get that that anchor point right, all of our waking hours and energy should be directed towards that.
It all hinges on the destination
As a senior faculty member for the Human Capital Institute, I teach a course called Strategic Workforce Planning. You can’t start this process until you figure out the organizational strategy. Every step in this process has to have that in its sight.
Our careers should be the same. What is the destination? If you don’t know the destination, any path will get you there.
Our lives are all spent in recalculating mode. Like the GPS methodology, if we make the wrong choice and get routed into the wrong position or we realize we made a mistake the turn, it just gives us another route to take.
If our destination is set and we know where we are [the starting point], we are halfway there. The problem is that we have problems determining the destination. We are all aware of where we are, and we sometimes get frustrated with the twists and turns along the way. We are always striving to get from point “A” to point “B,” just like in mapping out a trip.
But twists and turns can be career killers if we do not put it in that context. Just like our driving, if we miss a turn [an opportunity], we are in the wrong lane and can’t even get over in time [wrong place and the right time].
These type of metaphors can be used in all our scenarios. But with the wonders of GPS technology, we can be back on track in a heartbeat. I don’t care how many misturns we make, the technology will always get us back on track.
Twist and turns!
I remember quitting a job one time. I walked in, gave my notice, and in a couple of weeks I walked out. I had set my destination and just followed what I thought was the turn-by-turn directions. Well, I made some wrong turns, and, I turned right when I should have gone left.
We have all been there. The u-turn that looked promising to get me back on track only got me more confused, and I got “more lost.” However in the back of my mind, I went back to recalculating. Eventually I made that one right turn, and based on my internal GPS system, I was back on track.
You look at any person that has reached the top of their career field and they can regale you with stories about things  that seemed like career killers at the time, but they recalculated and moved on.
So next time you get frustrated because that things are not working out, think of how your GPS would respond. That is easy because it only knows one word:

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