I never envisioned myself having the career or type of job that I now have. Most of my career development happened as a result of following opportunities as they arose, rather than having a specific plan that I stuck to rigorously. This isn't to say you shouldn't have a plan. You should, so that you know what you believe matters most to you. But, you may also find along the way that your vision of a job/role may not be consistent with what that job/role really is or requires. Similarly, things may arise in the course of your job that you never expected as opportunities - a big problem that came up, a new priority for the company, a new line of business. By being flexible and following those opportunities whether they were exactly what you were expecting or not, you will find ways to grow personally and professionally, and your career will grow along with it.
For me personally, I realize now that what I was expecting early in my career and what I thought mattered most to me was not actually what I ultimately cared about most and was most passionate about. I only learned this because I was willing to take on new problems, teach myself about things I didn't know, and dive into any problem and figure it out. As a result, I ended up having a career that is very different from what I expected when I first began. Being flexible and willing to change and learn was what ultimately served me best in discovering my way into a career and role that I am truly passionate about and where my knowledge and experience were best used.
Sam recommends the following next steps:
- Create a "big picture" plan for life, not just career. In 5, 10, 20 years what would you ideally be doing both professionally and personally? What matters to you most? Use that as a way of keeping your biggest priorities top of mind as you evaluate jobs and opportunities that arise. Update it yearly as your life evolves and your priorities evolve too.