Is planning the career path pointless?

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The beginning of a new year is always a great time to start moving your career in a better direction. It’s pretty common that at that time many employees set Workplace and Career New Year’ s Resolutions. This is also the time for looking back on what you achieved last year, what failures you faced and what lessons you learned. Based on that many of us start planning their career paths all over again. But can you actually plan it? Does a strict career path limit your perspective? Or maybe it’s just pointless since we are unable to control external factors that affect us?

The plan is essential

Dwight Eisenhower once said that “plans are nothing; planning is everything”. He clearly meant that plan is something static and might undergo modifications so may end up getting completely abandoned . On the other hand, planning is something more dynamic, unpredictable and is more focused on uncertainty. The career path is also sort of a plan. For me, planning your career path is a conscious and ongoing process of setting goals based on the analysis of the current situation and our actual needs. Mostly, it’s like taking the middle way between reality and visions. So it’s good to have it but sometimes we need to be flexible enough to go with the flow when necessary.

The only constant thing is change

Once you define your career path do you actually stick to it? Given the present condition of the economy and still so much uncertainty in the air I think that for most of us it’s hardly possible. The labor market demands often set the rules and trends. It’s estimated that employees change their jobs on average every three years. It turns out we are no longer life-long loyal to one employer, like our parents used to be, working for the same company for 25 years. Many people also acquire new qualifications and change professions every few years, which is a complete makeover of their career path.

If you don’t know where you are going you will probably get somewhere else

You will never feel accomplished if you don’t know what gives you satisfaction in the professional life. Having a specific and measurable goal is quite essential. It gives us the sense of direction and keeps us on the right track while making important  career decisions. In my company, at performance reviews we always ask people what they aim for? What competences they would like to develop in the upcoming months? How they see themselves in the near future? And how we can help them realize these goals. Very often they don’t know. They say: ” I haven’t given it much thought” or ” We will see what life brings, it depends on the projects”. They have no plan, they don’t feel the need to specialize in anything specific.
Credit to countrywrobel.blox.pl

Credit to countrywrobel.blox.pl

When I interview software developers I often ask why they chose this particular technology, or why they decided to learn some of the listed skills. Some of them just shrug and say they don’t know, their choice was based on the current company needs, on the project they were working on etc. Their choice was purely incidental and had nothing to do with the plan. No wonder, sometimes when there are no projects that fit your dreams developers have to work on the ones that are to be done and can’t afford to be too fussy. Some can be very determined and they know exactly what they want. They follow projects which they are interested in and are quite employer independent. If they feel they are wandering off their career and development path they quickly look around for the new projects that are in line with their dreams. But I feel this is only a  handful of developers who are so ambitious and determined. Most of them are great loyal soldiers who act on orders and go with the company flow.

Planning the career path is pointless

Many psychologists claim that most of the important decisions are based on fleeting emotions. It’s like choosing the best partner for life or a cozy apartment. You don’t check  them against a table with the requirements. Usually, you enter the apartment and you feel this is the right place, this is my future home. Choosing the career destination is often similar. careerpathYou are studying architecture for five years, then start your first job and you feel the atmosphere of the office smothers you. Then you find your passion: parachuting. You start taking bird’s eye view pictures from while parachuting. The photos can be used for visualizations in building designs. And suddenly you realize this is it.  The thing you feel passionate about and you want to invest all your energy resources into it.

No decision is also some decision

We don’t realize that our plans are often shaped by the environment we are in, by our bosses, current trends, market demand, friends and the family. Often we yield to the pressure of getting promoted to the manager’s position because this is what everybody tells you is natural step after so many years of experience. But be careful. It this really what you want? Do you realize all the implications of this change? Define your priorities first and then make a decision. In my next post I will provide some useful advice on how to effectively define your goals and plan career path in a healthy way. Feel free to comment below and follow us on twitter.
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  • Planning your career is one of the best thing you can do when you are still young. It will be best if you will ask some help with your parents.

  • agibowska

    Thanks for the comment. I think for young people it's very good to have a plan. In reality, it often happens that the younger you are the more shaky your plans are and are more prone to changes.

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