Navigating the complex career maze

We’ve all likely watched too many movies involving a maze where the hapless characters find themselves meandering aimlessly through the many zigs and zags in hopes they might find their way out. These poor souls are often portrayed as fumbling along, panicking at times and relying mostly on luck in hopes that they might reach the other side. Some make it through and some don’t, some are lucky and others unlucky.

But what if those same characters entering the maze knew exactly where they wanted to go? Imagine what a little strategy might accomplish and what effect it would have on the outcome. What if they actually planned their route prior to entering the labyrinth? It might make for dull movies, lacking the requisite drama, risk and intrigue to keep our attention, but for those entering the maze, their odds of success would drastically improve, avoiding the wrong turns and unnecessary pitfalls befitting less prepared participants.

Managing one’s career is a lot like a maze. Do you turn left, turn right or go straight ahead? What if you made a wrong turn, do you course correct and turnaround or do you stubbornly plow ahead in hopes an alternative route might emerge?

It had been my experience that far too often, people make random career changes, attracted to something shiny, while lacking any foresight into how any specific move will influence their career or how it fits into any long-term career plan. One example I’ve seen far too often are former leaders bringing their direct reports to their next employment environment. It’s fine that the boss made the move, but just because she or he would like you to follow, it doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest. As flattering as it might seem, does that person have your best interest at heart or is your exiting boss merely attempting to surround him or herself in the recently abandoned safety net.

Does this move help you or your former boss? Maybe it’s the right move for you, but be sure, otherwise it’s a random choice with no consideration for your personal career goals. At worst, it might be a wrong turn leading to a dead end. In places like Atlantic Canada, these random moves are far too prevalent. We know someone and that makes the move seem more comfortable. Your first day will be less awkward and you’ll settle in more easily. But was the move a strategic one for your career?

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