It is not uncommon that I talk with folks who are surprised at where they are in their jobs and careers. Not necessarily unhappy with where they are in life, but recognizing that the path taken has turned out differently from what they started out to pursue. Some aren’t sure they are where they are “supposed” to be, and others have found great satisfaction in their work lives. This “redirection” of worker dreams and aspirations happens for a great many reasons, both positive and negative. For some, it happens by accident; for others it is either an unavoidable or chosen detour.
If you started out pursuing a career different from where you are now, ask yourself a few questions.
Are you happy where you are?
Do you like what you’re doing?
Are you “making a difference” in the work you do?
Are you making a value contribution?
From where you are now do you see opportunities for growth?
Did you get where you are by “mistake” or “divine intervention”?
Is your original goal gnawing at you and something you still want to pursue?
What might you do to transition back to the direction you originally wanted to go?
Are the skills you currently use relevant to your other goal?
How much training would now be involved to return to your original path?
By asking yourself these questions, you’ll get a sense of either your comfort level or dissatisfaction with what you are presently doing, and how much you lament not following that original path. You may already be tuned in to this but on a day-to-day basis we might be too busy to give these considerations much thought. Taking a little time to assess how you got to where you are, and your acceptance of that place may help to ease many insecurities over the direction your work life has taken. Or you might fortify your desire to make a change to do something else that inspires you, old path or new.
If you are not where you thought you would be, but are happy where you are in your life, this is a good thing. But as we think about those paths we’ve taken, in our careers and our lives, what else has been affected? Think about your family and social life. Would you be in the same relationships? Would you have the same set of friends? Have you developed interests in areas that you otherwise might not have had exposure? Have you traveled for work to places you never imagined visiting?
Perhaps you went to school, got all the advanced degrees that you thought would make you the best at what you were striving for, and when you achieved that goal, you were unhappy in what you were doing and walked away. I’ve known accomplished doctors and lawyers who decided the sacrifices to their family and personal lives were too great and in the long run not worth the efforts it took to attain those goals, so they set out on new paths very divergent from the ones on which they started out.
Along any path taken there will have been sacrifices, some more significant than others. While pursuing and waiting for that dream job that maybe never happened, many people took positions they would have otherwise never considered. Bills had to be paid, food put into bellies, so that little course change became one from which you couldn’t veer. Getting caught up in the daily grind, there may not have been time to pursue that original path, so you stayed the course and took care of your responsibilities. And maybe you found joy and satisfaction in what you wound up doing.
Whatever path you have taken, whether it’s your original or alternate, what really matters is that you are doing the best job you can do. It may not be perfect. You will make mistakes. There will be frustrations. There may even be fear. But there should also be motivation. Know that you will gain confidence and you’ll experience personal growth. You will learn new skills. And there will also – in time – be achievement. So, whatever path you choose, give it your best shot. Just don’t sit still. Move forward on a path and goal that motivates you.
For each of us, some paths are better than others. We hope we choose wisely. But as long as you are sincere in your pursuit of your path, the path taken will always lead you to where you need to be. Whatever path you follow, know that I wish you a successful journey!
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