Over the years, I’ve watched a lot of very savvy people build rewarding careers, but it’s rare to see someone put together a perfect career path, and most will always have a blip, and some will have more than others. Even the cleverest, most well informed and experienced people can get it wrong at some point in their career. Some people will make a move at the wrong time or for the wrong reason, or join a company that looked amazing from the outside but didn’t stack up inside. It happens to the best of us, at every level too, from a grad making their first career move to a senior marketer moving up the ladder. The fact is – no one gets is right, every time and there is no shame in it either.
However, these mistakes can be good because it helps you define what you want from your career, the people you work best with, the bits of a job you like or dislike, and most important, help you decide what you don’t want. There’s no point beating yourself up about it too because you can always learn something; good or bad. I never quite grasped the importance of keeping your car topped up with oil until the time until I blew the engine on a cold wet morning driving up the M6, but it does show how we learn and believe me, I’ve learned a bit about engines since. Furthermore, the only way we truly learn and develop is by making mistakes and taking risks and you’ll also find that you’ll have a far more interesting career. To me, the biggest risk is staying put and not venturing out, meeting new people and exploring new opportunities.
I’m also not trying to moralise here. Prior to recruitment, I’ve worked in advertising agencies, marketing departments, an import and export company, stacked shelves in Asda (loved that job), worked in pubs and fast food vans, sold dreadful suits and bacon to cleaning kitchens. I think it’s pretty fair to say, I’ve met a diverse group of people and experienced many different working scenarios and cultures, but best of all I’ve taken good and bad from everything. I’ve also met some truly inspiring people, and maybe ones that I’d rather forget, but this has only happened by taking the odd risk here and there.
As you go through life, you will encounter new people and employers at different junctures. Some you will like and some you won’t. A few of them will become life-long friends and a few won’t make your Christmas list. You may even marry one of them. Don’t be perturbed about this or be embarrassed about it, it’s all part of the journey. A fair few people I’ve met don’t really have a plan which I sort of admire because not many of us can 100% know where we’re going. It’s what makes life a bit of fun. The ones that do have hard and set plans aren’t very good at handling the curve ball that life can throw at you. In some respects, the more mistakes we make, the more rich and rewarding your working career will become. It may have been bad at the time but you will always look back fondly and maybe think how the devil did I put up with Dave in accounts for so long (no offence to anyone called Dave who works in accounts). This is why it’s always best to keep moving forward, and whilst no one can predict how a new job will turn out, staying put will limit your chances of personal development or experience of new cultures and people.
Money will also be a factor in making a move, you may feel underpaid or undervalued or not liked. Needless to say, money is important and if you’ve mastered your trade or worked incredibly hard, there is no shame in earning a decent salary. However, you may reach a point and discover that it’s how you make your money that will become more of an important factor in your working life, not how much you make. You will find that working with great people in a rewarding environment may outweigh what you earn. However, it can take a few bumps and knocks on the career road to reach that point.
I also hear a lot of people say they are unhappy in their jobs (it’s kind of what keeps us in business), but some don’t do anything about it due to the fear of moving and making the same mistake. Never think like this because no two companies are the same so it’s mad to think there is nothing better out there and put up with what you have. It’s highly unlikely that there is nothing you can do about the situation but staying where you are is not a wise decision. You’ve got to take control of your career and find roles and companies that will enrich your life, not hinder it. You may not earn as much or have a prestigious job title but you will feel a dam sight better. Einstein once said, ‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new’. It’s the same with your career.
To avoid serial mistakes, you do have to be true to yourself and know your abilities and worth to a potential company. I’m all for self-belief and thinking you’re a pretty decent human being and taking on roles that scare you a bit, but don’t believe your own hype. Sorry to say, but we’ve all experienced people that think they’re a lot better than they are. It’s a dangerous attitude because not only does it put others off you, it will genuinely lead to poor career choices and disappointment because you will always get found out. By all means, be gracious and positive about yourself but you do need a clear understanding of who you are, your skills, and if possible, a vision of what you can truly achieve.
We are all unique and have different skills and abilities. We owe it to ourselves to find how to best utilise them and prosper from the experience, but being realistic and candid will open more doors in the long run. You may also avoid the odd career bump and find yourself in roles where your time and energy can be used more profitably.
Sooner or later, you’ll work out what it is you want from your career. You may even go your own way and set up a business that gives you freedom. And even if you reach it, it may not be what you expected. I never envisaged I’d be in recruitment, but without taking a risk a few years back, I wouldn’t be sat here writing this, or have met some amazing people along the way. Having a plan is cool but don’t sweat if you get a bit lost along the way – you certainly won’t be alone.