Sunday, March 08, 2015

Career Design, Not Career Planning

Please, give up Career Planning. 

This whole idea of planning, setting goals, defining activities and timelines, moving towards it step by step, is so dated. It used to be useful when one knew where to go. All those advices about beginning with the end in mind, fine on paper, but do not work any more when things change so much, so fast.

The talk of Career Planning, however well-meaning, is always misdirected, and possibly harmful. Indeed, one can plan near term - for that next job, or to get a skill - but this assumption that you can plan your next twenty years, a whole career, is itself based on the flawed assumption that one can predict the world well in advance. This is the mistake most well-intentioned parents make when they push their children down the career paths they themselves took, or in some cases, those they wished they had taken. Such reliance on planning closes down the opportunities of exploration, of chance opportunities, of continuous learning, and often leads to dead ends.

I am not suggesting one should not think about career and do nothing about it, and just let things happen. I am only suggesting that career is such a multi-dimensional, fast changing, in-the-future thing that planning is not that useful. It is much more rewarding to think about something like Career Design, which does not depend on parameters and formulas of the past, but, as all designers do, depend on observed behaviour. It is about making the effort to know what exactly various careers mean, what people do in those roles, how they have got there - and not just take their word for it! This is developing an observant behaviour towards others, networking widely and gaining knowledge about the world of work and all the things that come with it. It is not an half-an-hour exercise with a career counsellor, but something more persistent and something more multi-dimensional.

By doing this, hopefully, someone learns how one gets along in the career - and this is not about absorbing some formula, but learning continuously and changing behaviour. This can prepare the observer for all twists and turns, and also develop an approach to change and uncertainty. This indeed needs to be a guided process, all design processes are, but the emphasis should be on observation, engagement and behaviour, and not on formula, activity and deadlines.

 


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