Your career is not a hobby. It’s non-negotiable really: you need to succeed in your career. You have to pay for the house, the cars, the children’s education, your next holiday and whatever other lifestyle choices you have made. Like most people, your career is your only ticket to any form of financial success in life. A few people find that building a career is easy. For most people, though, it’s tough.
Your boss mentioned a divisional restructuring. You have no idea what you would do if you were forced to find a new job. The talk, arranged by HR, about the new world of work didn’t do anything to alleviate that stress about the long term. In fact, it just left you feeling scared and suspicious.
That reminds you that you had better set up that LinkedIn account like Mike suggested. Your friends are going on holidays to the coast and you have promised the family that they can do the same. You just can’t admit right now to the others – or to your family – that cash is a little tight. And the car needs fixing too. Hopefully it can wait just a few months more.
And then there are the demands on you and your time. Family activities you need to attend and friends who need your help. If you could just sleep properly and not feel so tired all the time, that would help.
Yes, managing your career – and your life – can be tough indeed. You wonder how some lucky people get to do work that they really like. You always dreamt of that for yourself, but right now there seems to be no chance of doing what you truly want. You have too many bills to pay so you must just keep doing what you’re doing now.
And just like that, you fall into The Trap.
When you are faced with a career dilemma, you may attempt to solve it by speaking to a couple of people or by posting your resumé online, hoping that someone will come calling with that perfect job. When that doesn’t work, you give up and convince yourself that you are lucky to have your current job and that only especially blessed people get to do what they love. You may even enter that ‘waiting area’, where you wait to be happy, wait for the perfect moment, wait to have enough money.
This is The Trap: thinking that some time in the future you’ll have the time, the energy, the resources, the network, the skills, the lucky break, or some other opportunity you somehow can’t access now. And so you try to survive your current situation. Waiting.
Most people are better at coping than at taking control and making choices that powerfully propel them forward to success. Have you noticed the increasing evidence of people’s ‘just coping’ in our society? The excessive and increasing use of prescription drugs to reduce and manage stress; excessive drinking to drown the sorrows of the week; job-hopping for small increases in pay; lack of engagement in the workplace; lack of energy amongst workers; poor service; incomplete work, and more. Companies now have to provide incentives and awards to encourage people just to complete the work they were hired for and are being paid to do. These are people who are treading water in their careers. Just waiting.
This may feel like your only option, or even seem like a good tactic, except for the fact that career dilemmas can be – and have been – resolved by many people in many different situations. Many people have escaped The Trap. There are actual people out there who, instead of accepting that work is something that just pays the bills, have found or created work that pays the bills and is fulfilling and, in many cases, also positively impacts the world.
When it comes to overcoming career dilemmas, what most people lack is not the competence to do the work (current or new) but rather the skill to navigate their careers effectively. On their own and with their current level of skill, it is rare for people to come up with the ideas and options they need to escape The Trap and overcome career dilemmas. They remain caught in The Trap by seeking quick-fix solutions based on the latest popular trends or suggestions from well-meaning but poorly informed family and friends.
What they need are the skills and attitudes that will propel them to career success. This is possible for everyone. This is what this book is all about.
Most people typically don’t think of themselves as ‘career navigators’ as they’re too focused on the job they’re currently doing and they fail to see the impact that their careers have on themselves and their communities. If they did, they would invest much more energy in looking for new and better ways to enhance their career navigation strategies and skills. Any time they tried to find jobs and failed, they’d stop to try a new strategy. Any time they were declined raises or promotions, they’d try something new or carve new roles for themselves. Any time they came home drained and disillusioned, they’d seek out something new, or at least place another marker on the career navigation journey.
Many people cause themselves a great deal of grief by not realising that it’s their duty to become good at navigating their careers. Instead of moaning, complaining, becoming despondent and finding ways to cope, they need to focus on improving career navigation skills and strategies.
This is why we wrote this book. We are of the opinion that almost all career dilemmas can be overcome by simply thinking and behaving differently. To free themselves from The Trap, people need to take responsibility for their careers; go about creating their own realities and powerfully choose the options that will allow them to be their best.
In this book, instead of seeking quick-fix strategies, we explore the mindsets that successful career navigators use every day to secure opportunities in the new world of work and become their best. This is something you can start today and do every day for the rest of your life.