I’d like to talk about career planning. Many times I think back at my career development and think about lessons learned. What I have discovered is that career planning just doesn’t seem to work.
Many people pressure you into defining what you want to do before you go out and do it. The problem with this idea is that it assumes that it is easy to determine what it is that will fulfil you. It is not. Suppose you think you like accounting. There are so many branches of accounting that you can’t possibly know if the branch you eventually fall into will satisfy you. Furthermore, there is so much more that makes up career satisfaction than a broad academic category like “accounting.” You may love cost accounting but when you end up in a job where you hate the people you work with or you hate your manager, you will not be happy.
To complicate matters, although you may think you like accounting, there is no guarantee you will even end up in an accounting role. You may study accounting and specialize in, say, accounting standards, but once you enter the job market you may find that there are no jobs available that suit your stated passion, and you have to settle for something else.
Career planning is like walking through a maze. You know you need to reach your destination and you may know the general direction of your destination, but there are multiple walls or obstacles around you, so much so that long-term planning seems pointless.
So what are we to do when we walk through the foggy maze that is our career? When you walk through a maze, you focus on what is ahead. You focus on the walls around you. You focus on what paths that are available for you right then and there. If you make a wrong turn and reach a dead end, you walk back and learn your lesson.
The same applies with your career. You follow the paths available to you. If the only jobs available are general finance graduate jobs rather than the accounting standards job you were hoping for, it may be better to settle with what is available. Even if you get something you think you want, for whatever reason, you may end up not like it. Even if you end up liking something, circumstances change. Your manager can change. There might be a restructure. The world is not fixed, and planning too much leaves you inflexible and vulnerable to a rapidly changing world.
We need to be flexible and adaptable. We need to be prepared to be the best we can be regardless of the situation presented to us.