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Choosing a Career? It Doesn’t Usually Work That Way

It is graduation time, and the discussions about college and careers grow increasingly intense.  That intensity may be a reflection of a common view of “career” as a one-time decision to be made, rather than the lifelong progression that it really is.  This is not to diminish the important role that planning plays in that progression, but to help you understand that a good plan will accommodate change over time in response to new knowledge and changing life circumstances.  As such, climbing a mountain offers a better comparison than a one-time choice of which mountain to climb.

To increase one’s chances of successfully ascending any mountain takes preparation.  You’ll want to start with a destination in mind, and you’ll need the right tools and supplies to make the journey.  This preparation might be compared to your K-12 school experience, designed to help you learn the basic skills, and give you the knowledge you need, to launch your life beyond high school.  

As you begin an ascent up a mountain, you are bound to encounter unexpected challenges – perhaps a sudden change in the weather, a boulder that blocks your way, or even the discovery that you need to make more frequent stops than you originally anticipated. These challenges offer opportunities to evaluate, learn, and adjust your plan all along the way.  You might even re-define your path to take advantage of vistas unseen from your initial perspective, or to participate in an unanticipated adventure.  Successful careers are similarly a whole series of evaluating your steps along the way, applying your current knowledge and skills, and developing the additional knowledge and skills that will help you meet the next challenge.  You might re-define your plan to accommodate changing life circumstances (e.g., marriage, the birth of a child), or to hone the skills that will enable you to take a bigger “leap” in your career than you initially planned.

Whether climbing a mountain or embarking on a career, it all starts with a plan; just be open to adjusting the course in light of new information and lessons learned.

Your first step beyond high school is worth serious consideration. Framing it as just the first of many choices you will be making might reduce some of the associated stress.  There are more opportunities that will come your way, more skills to learn, more insight to achieve – across your entire lifetime.  You need not have your entire journey mapped out with every contingency defined, you need only get started!


One Response to “Choosing a Career? It Doesn’t Usually Work That Way”

  1. John Foster Says:

    Brilliant! I totally agree with this. Students don’t need to figure out what they are doing for the rest of their life, they just need to figure out what to do next. Otherwise, how to we prepare students for careers and jobs that don’t currently exist??

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