Thirty plus years ago, when I started out in career counseling (an emerging field), the main impediment to career choice was the cumbersome research process. Identifying career options, reality testing, information interviewing, gaining knowledge about work-life details in different organizations was a real challenge especially for people who had full time jobs or were earning a degree. Career seekers generally spent their time reading broadly, scheduling personal meetings, writing letters (often by hand) and following up. Face to face meetings were the gold standard. It was a full time job.
Now, technology has broken through this barrier and created another. With Facebook, LinkedIn, email, Twitter and Google, career seekers can spend all their time on line…rarely talking to a real person face to face. And these activities, which are efficient and, ironically protect the seekers from that awful specter of rejection, often isolate them from the very critical interpersonal connections that create opportunities.
Careers don’t happen on paper, spread sheets, on-line profiles, branding statements or resumes. They are built experience by experience, person by person. They involve planning and happenstance. Learning from my very successful clients, I observe that careers are not linear; they evolve in an incremental way, have ups and downs and many surprises. There are few guarantees that doing the “right” thing results in a life-long career that makes one happy, passionate, stable and successful. Using those measures to eliminate before exploring is a recipe for staying stuck.
Do you suffer from limiting your ideas with information overload because your research ends up obfuscating more than illuminating?
Next time you come to a career exploration halt, consider three alternative approaches to research:
• Iterative: Instead of the “best” career move, recognize that careers build one assignment at a time and sometimes a mistake or risk is the key to the next great gig.
• Interesting: If you experience a spark when hearing about or reading about a field, company, or initiative, don’t extinguish it with over thinking; explore it. One spark often leads to another.
• Interpersonal: Talk with everyone. Meet people who are doing a variety of work as well as play. When you meet others who are engaged in what they do, your possibilities begin to take voice.