A Career is a Terrible Thing to Waste...

Here’s my 5 cents of cheap career advice.

The other day some friends and I were discussing professional opportunities, choices, plans, decisions...

Some people think it’s better to focus on the here and now, after all, no one knows if and what opportunities may arise in the future. They believe they have to do their best at what they currently do and then things will eventually sort themselves out for them. I believe that’s leaving too much to chance.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are the Luke Skywalkers- “All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was…” as Yoda so succinctly put it. These are the ones who start a new job thinking about what other position they covet and what other companies may be interested in them, without truly devoting themselves to their current chores.

 I’m more of a Qui-Gon-Jin person:
Obi-Wan: …Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future.
Qui-Gon Jinn: But not at the expense of the moment. 

Quick parenthesis: Why all the Star Wars’ references? Because we are re-releasing Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3-D on February 10th, 2012 and I need to shamelessly plug it! And now back to our regular programming.

I always try to focus on my current responsibilities, without losing sight of possible future paths. I see my career like a boat on a very choppy sea. You’ve got a general idea of where you want to go, but the currents keep dragging you somewhere else. You’ve got to play those currents so as not to stray too far away from your visualized destination, which must also be somewhat flexible, otherwise you might lose opportunities by stubbornly following a fixed goal, or be disappointed if things don’t turn out exactly as you want… and chances are they won’t.

By having more or less a defined general goal, you can then constantly prepare yourself for possible opportunities that will keep you on track of reaching it (as Seneca has endlessly been quoted as saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”).

Then comes the tricky part: you have to know when to take chances, jump the big waves, brave the currents, jump into the water with the sharks or paddle like crazy (enough cheap nautical references for you? I know I’ve had my full, so let’s continue without them).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you need to strive to do whatever you are currently doing as best as you can, have an overview of what you want to accomplish in the mid-to-long run, and always keep preparing for it. You have to actively seek opportunities and keep your eyes open for signs (sometimes you’ll know when to aggressively pursue an objective and when it would be better to let it pass you by).

And there are always pesky politics to consider. Who are your true allies? Who’s holding you back? Who couldn’t care less? By knowing this, it becomes easier to play the pieces, even the ones working against you, in your favor. Try to keep most people on your side. Pissing people off almost always turns out to be counter productive, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. These are the risks you sometimes have to take.

After all of the above, you might think I devote way too much time on career planning.

I don’t.

I'm more of a dreamer. I try to visualize myself and my family in an ideal future, get a good feel of what that future might look like, and then keep that vision in my heart while pulling up my sleeves to do the current job at hand. That's what inspires me to keep doing my best.


  1. Point taken. And, on a completely unrelated note, what ever happened to Mark Hamill's film career?


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