Being clear about your deeper desire, about what gives you fulfillment and true satisfaction should be the basis for your career strategy. This clarity will give direction to your career development.
Many are rushing into their professional life and focus on climbing up the hierarchy as quickly as they can. Unfortunately, too often they find out later that they come to a dead-end, that they don’t find meaning anymore in what they do. Sometimes it is by that time too late to make a completely new start. The introspection about your deep desire is therefore of great importance.
The example of Antoine
Antoine had come to Paris with a clear idea in mind: to complete his business school and to engage into a finance career in a large corporation. This was certainly also the expectation from his family, who had made certain sacrifices to pay for his studies and for an international semester abroad. Antoine succeeded his studies with a MBA and made a great career start in a large French corporation. He moved up the ranks quite easily at the beginning and got a lot of satisfaction from his job.
Finance was not really his passion, but he was good in mathematics, and it was therefore quite easy for him to learn fast. He liked his colleagues. This did compensate the fact that the content of his job was not giving him much personal fulfillment. What he really loved was the countryside and the vineyard of his family. He regularly went back home over the holidays to help manage the farm. It had become his hobby. He saw his job as a source of income, but his real passion was in the rural area where he had grown up.
Then came a situation when a job opportunity he was expecting to get did not materialize. It was the first time in his career that he was not able to move up as planned. He knew that other options would come up and nobody in the company saw this situation as a problem. His line manager confirmed to Antoine that he was perceived as a strong talent and that the company would support his professional development. But this situation triggered a thought process.
Antoine started to step back and take a more holistic view on where he stood in his professional life and what he was expecting longer term. He remembered the initial excitement had to get to know the world of international corporate finance. He remembered that he was associating certain ideas about that type of job and that type of life. This was based on assumptions he was making, not on any evidence he had. In a way he took it for granted that this is what he wanted and what he “should” do.
This is when he reached out for career counseling. It became clear to him that the real issue was not related to that missed job move. That “failure” (in his eyes) had prompted a more profound reflection on his side. What did he truly want to do in his life?
His deep connection to the vineyard became more obvious to him, but it took time before he admitted to himself that this is what he really wanted to do. He had never allowed himself to even question the career path that his parents had offered him, with certain financial sacrifices on their end. An open discussion with his family brought clarity. His skills were needed to run the family business, and everyone was excited to have him “back”. His decision was to take the management of the farm when his father would retire.
What can we learn from Antoine’s story?
In Antoine’s case, an external event provoked a deeper questioning. Fortunately for him, this came right in time. Don’t wait for such an external event concerning your career. We have only one life. Make sure that your professional activity really matches your aspirations. That is what the following section is about.
Please take a few moments to think about the following questions:
- Are you clear on your deeper professional aspiration? Have you made a conscious effort to make that aspiration explicit? Did you write it down?
- In your past career decisions, did you follow the traditional vertical career progression, maybe just because that was what other were expecting from you?
- Are you building your career plan based on a clear understanding of your talents and personal preferences? What are these?
- Is that plan playing to your strengths? Do you fully leverage these strengths?
- Does your career allow you to bring yourself fully in as a person?
- Are you clear about your deeper desire? Have you had opportunity to check this?
This introspection should help you find the North star for your career strategy.
More information in my book:
Sven Sommerlatte : Successful Career Strategy – An HR Practitioner’s Guide to Reach Your Dream Job (Springer, June 2023). ISBN: 978-3-662-66790-3