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Career Paths: Do you have one?

March 28, 2012

I recently had to write up a short description of my future career path at my company.  Every time I it entered my mind, a small wave of anxiety came over me.

It isn’t that I’m unhappy with my job or my career – I’m really happy with everything right now.  It’s just… I don’t want to decide what direction I want to go.   I always hate the act of choosing, because I really just want the chance to do everything!  Clearly one life is not enough for that!

The two main paths to choose from are technical and management, and honestly, I want to do both.  This isn’t uncommon – many people switch from one to the other, and no one (at my company)  is going to give you a management job without a good technical background anyway.

Just looking at the technical part isn’t easy either.  I have some skills and areas of expertise, but I’m not sure how I want to grow and build them.  I definitely do want to keep learning, and my new project is growing my knowledge, I just don’t know exactly what I’m targeting.  And I think that is OK.  I’ve always figured things out as they’ve come along, and maybe it isn’t the most efficient path, but it works for me.

I talked with my manager about it, and after 15 minutes, he had said a few things that made enough sense to me that I had a vision of a path.  Not necessarily “the path”, because I don’t think you can plan everything, but we talked about what things might look like over the next 5 years or so, and from there I’d be well positioned for either the  jobs at my company.  It is amazing the perspective someone who has been around for years can give, especially someone who has seen many careers grow!

(Note that there is a chance we’ll have to move,  and I’ll find a totally new company.  Or maybe I’d leave for other reasons.  I just like to operate under the assumption that this won’t happen, because it is much easier!)

Do you have a career plan?  Or do you at least have an end goal in mind?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 8:32 am

    I’ve been thinking about this lately too. I think that my ideal day would be half technical, half managerial. Whether I pursue a more technical path or a managerial path, either way, I need to continue to work on my soft skills, so that’s the basis of most of my goals for this year.

    I kind of want to be a VP some day. I think that would be awesome. But clearly to do that, I need to go into management at some point…

  2. March 28, 2012 11:55 am

    I know what you mean – I love the technical part of my job and can’t imagine not being in it. However, I have a feeling that in the future, I won’t want to be coding every day and would rather work on the management side. I wish there was a way to just test it a little and see if it’s really what I want…I figure I have a few years to keep my eyes and ears open and see if it’s really the direction I want to go.

  3. March 28, 2012 12:03 pm

    The thing about my field is it’s not very hierarchical – there’s not a tall ladder.

    So, no, I don’t have a career path in mind. It’s quite likely I’ll make lateral moves or switch focus to a different industry – that’s often how it goes.

    It sounds like you have a great manager! Keep him 🙂

  4. March 28, 2012 4:30 pm

    I DON’T have a career plan. I don’t even like to think 2-3 years from now. I’m working on my review for work now too and I have no idea what to put for long-term goals

  5. March 28, 2012 6:07 pm

    I sort of kind of have a career plan, but I know things get derailed so I’m not going to get too attached to the plan. I’ll just go with the flow 🙂

  6. March 28, 2012 7:39 pm

    This question gives me frequent headaches and occasional nightmares. It’s easier to answer it when you hate your job or industry, because you know you’re going to leave for the promised land, whatever that ends up being.

    I honestly have no idea, so for the first time in my life, I’m going with the flow.

  7. oilandgarlic permalink
    March 29, 2012 9:07 am

    Many people want to climb up the ladder to management because that it’s expected and it is sort of difficult if you don’t make it up too far at a certain age (i.e. your boss is younger than you). That’s why for many the end goal is management by XX age (especially for men), despite the fact that they have trouble handling their current job or hate office politics. Having said that, I admit that I have/had fantasies of reaching a certain level. It’s only now that I admit that I would not want that brass ring. For me, that would be too much worrying and I would think of work all the time and that’s just not the life I want.

  8. April 3, 2012 9:22 pm

    Funny, my people sweat bullets every time we have this sort of conversation like it’s a test when I just want to get a sense for their interests and desires to help them find a general path.

    For myself, I’ve finally reached a point where the path is relatively unknown because I have to write my own path. It’s already management with a lot of projects and strategy but what do I want to carve out after this? It’s probably coming to whether or not I can learn enough to take my boss’s job. But that’ll be tough because my boss has 20+ yrs on me and loves his job. Plus I don’t so much love his job. It’s a little strange not being sure what’s next.

  9. April 5, 2012 7:16 am

    I agree I think it is really hard to have a set career path. Recently I’ve figure out what industry I want to be in and I even know what types of institutions I would prefer to work at. Yet I do think there are handful of different things within all this that I would enjoy as long as I was working in the right context. It is tough!

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