Making career decisions can be challenging

There are no longer ‘careers for life’—a career that goes along a linear path, in a straight line. 

Instead, your career is now driven by your ability to understand your capabilities, your strengths, the areas you are not so accomplished at and what you really enjoy doing.

Take a couple of examples: one of Disney’s international technology executives started her career as a public relations consultant; a leading Ombudsman started her career as a pharmacist; one of Australia’s Vice Chancellors was a research assistant in a commercial laboratory; a medical practitioner from rural India is now CEO of a large disability services organisation; a chemical engineer moved into banking and now uses her combined skills and experience to chair company boards; and a law and Asian languages graduate is a global health technology entrepreneur. 

Each of these executives used their initial education and experience to build their career—but they were careers that didn’t go in straight lines. 

In questioning people about their careers, we often ask about their ‘inflection points’—what were the decisions you made, the big risks you took, or the career opportunity that really challenged you? Where did you take a career risk and how did it turn out?

Post the 2010s, careers were more likely to meander than to go in a straight path. Professions that might once have offered structured progression, like lawyers or accountants, are under threat.

Teachers and tertiary sector educators are dealing with quite different student expectations and the potential commodification of some parts of their knowledge base. Much repetitive work is being, and will be, replaced by automation and artificial intelligence.

Certainly, we won’t always have the choices we want, or, be able to choose between options.

What will matter increasingly though, is our ability and willingness to take risks—considered risks—to gain new or different capabilities or experiences that will give us some future options. That is what those executives mentioned above did.

Something you should regularly ask yourself is where do you get real satisfaction? What type of growth do you want? If you’ve ever taken a risk in your career that returned great benefit, share it below in the comments field. It might just be the impetus someone else needs to take that next step in their own career.

Adapted from: The Agile Executive: Embracing Career Risks and Rewards by Marianne Broadbent