The untrodden career path


Sometimes I slightly envy those walking a clear career path. The ladder rungs laid out before their eyes; they just need to climb. This is not to deny the effort in the ascent. Exams to pass, interviews to nail, promotions to seek. I’m not looking for an easy life; the thing I envy is the clarity of the path and the destination ahead.

Job routes in the sustainability sector can feel more labyrinthine. Multiple options at each step, only the next turn visible. Decisions sometimes seem harder to make because of an inability to name the prize you’re hunting at the maze’s centre. When you don’t know your potential final job in an emerging sector, how do you know if you want it?

Perhaps I’ve created a false dichotomy between the straight path and the puzzling maze. At the end of the day, all our paths are individual; the route ahead is untrodden by the traveller. There will still be decisions to be made, doors to close, windows to open to make your own right leap.

Over the years, these nuggets of advice have helped me navigate my way forward:

  • Aim for an achievement, not a job: I heard this from Belinda Phipps, Chair of the Fawcett Society, CEO of the Science Council, at an event on gender equality in the workplace. Belinda encouraged the audience to pursue something to be accomplished, not a job title to be worn. For me, I don’t know what I want my last career job to be, but I know that I want to leave this world better than I found it. Making decisions, I can consider: Does this align with that goal? Will it have a genuine impact in the lives of individuals? Because ultimately that’s what I long to see.
  • Set boundaries: the husband heard and passed this on to me. If you know where you’d like to end up, set boundaries on what kind of roles and opportunities are going to help you achieve this. Everything within the boundaries will help you towards your goal; things outside of it are tangents to be avoided.
  • Release yourself to change: having a job for life is great, if that’s what you want. If you don’t though, be free to change. I was going to be a lab scientist until I realised that I hate lab work – pretty critical to the job I’d had my heart set on from the age eight. It took some emotional adjustment time, but I learnt to have grace for the change. To do something different. It can be hard to know when you should be heading for the next summit. If you want to attain more heights, sometimes you have to change paths to reach them.

I’ve been trying to follow this advice myself. This means that, much to my surprise, I recently left one brilliant job for another. Please be gracious with me as we figure out the lifestyle changes that will accompany the new role, including keeping up with this blog. The way ahead is untrodden by us. That’s what makes it so exciting.

What advice has helped you navigate your untrodden career path?

Today’s soundtrack: Jeremy Loops // Trading Change

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