Interruptions To Your Career Path

You've planned out your career course.  You've got an idea of where you are and where you want to go.  Spreadsheets and notes and documents and dog-eared books mark the way to your future.

That planned career course gets interrupted.  You move.  You change jobs.  The economy is ruined by stupid and greedy people.  Your plan is temporarily derailed, perhaps horribly so.

Of course once it's derailed, you get right back on your career plan.  You're no quitter, you won't stop, you won't give up.

Have you ever considered the fact maybe you should?

Yes, I'm going contrarian here.  Trust me, no one is more dedicated to anal-retentive, focused, researched career planning than I am.  I have books, I have notes, and I have a passionate, continuing love affair with spreadsheets that I like to think is mutual.

But sometimes the worse thing you can do is actually get back on your career path (or indeed your entire planned life path).  The jobs you wanted are plain gone, the country you want to live in isn't what it was, the company you dreamed of working for was just caught in a financial scandal.  Sometimes simply, you are not off the path – that path is gone and it's not coming back.

So it's time to whip up a new career path in the midst of the runs of your old one.  This is actually one of the hardest career skills to develop – knowing when to persist and when to change.

Unfortunately it's one you'll have to learn, especially in times of change like the Great Recession.  A lot of people are discovering their career paths go straight into the brick walls of industry transformation, the canyons of financial collapse, and the Valley Of Lame Career Metaphors.

The problem is knowing when to stick with your career path and when to change.  How do we know?

You stick with your career plan when:
1) You really still want to do it.
2) You can "redraw" your career map with new information and still show how you can get where you want to go.
3) You can effectively describe and work out ways to get around new barriers to your goals that change has thrown up.

You want to change career plans when:

  1. You no longer really want the results you'd planned for.
  2. Your research shows that getting to where you want to go won't work or will require changes you don't want to make.
  3. The new barriers thrown up massively derail your plans – enough that it requires change.

There's nothing wrong at all with changing your career path.  It happens – at best we all tweak our plans over time, at worst we change them because we have to and want to.  Just know when to stick with it and when to change.

You might find that a change is just what you need, or you might have the bright blazing comfort that, even after all these changes, you're still right and on track with your career.

– Steven Savage