Today I asked my 6-year-old daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up. There was not a moment of hesitation or doubt. For her the answer is completely clear and pretty matter of fact: “A superhero”. Ah-ha! A superhero. “Do you have a plan as to how you might become a super hero?” I asked her. “No…” she said with confidence “…I’ll just go to the pool of power and get the powers I need from there”. An undeniably simple plan – even if not based 100% in reality. But, unrealistic as this ambition may seem, there is one thing that stands out. It’s her dream job. Simple as that. There are no filters and there is no self-consciousness.
As we grow up our career ambitions can take some hard knocks. Striving for the right grades, getting appropriate experience, bouncing back from rejection, getting stuck in a rut or even becoming cynical can take passion out of our working lives and cause us to lose sight of our career goals.
How many times have you heard other people say of their jobs (or you may have said yourself) “… I fell into it really” or “…it pays the bills” or “…the work is OK but my manager is really annoying” or “…the pay is good but I just find it really dull”. Wouldn’t it be good if we heard “I love my job…” followed by any number of reasons why?
Passions change over the course of a lifetime. I don’t expect that my 6-year-old daughter will be a superhero in the way she currently sees it in her mind’s eye, but whatever she does do over the course of her career, I hope she has the drive and resilience to navigate potential derailers and keeps her ambitions alive throughout her working life. It won’t happen by chance. Reflecting on my own career journey so far, I noticed a few things I have done well, some I could certainly have improved upon and a few that key people have helped me with. If I was to give advice to my daughter I would probably offer these 7 pointers:
- Feel the Force. Work for and with people and organisations that have a purpose you want to strive for
- Use your special powers. Do things you have a talent for or feel a spark for (and you will be good at more than one thing)
- Take charge of your destiny. Take ownership for your work, your career and your decisions. You’ll always have options.
- Always be an apprentice. Treat successes, failures and indeed every project, interaction and relationship as an opportunity to learn something new. Reflect on achievements as you go. It’s easy to focus on the next step without celebrating and recognising your most recent accomplishment.
- Learn from the masters. Seek out working relationships with people you admire professionally to be inspired and accelerate your growth
- Understand your alter ego. Feedback is a gift – get it from as many people as possible to understand your hidden characteristics
- Find your champions. Be they mentors, sponsors, or a “best friend at work”. Listen to them. Having someone who believes in you is a great boost and often instrumental to progression
When I think of the life I’d love for my daughter, I’d love her to grow up to have a career she is passionate about and loves in whatever form that takes. I hope that she doesn’t define success too narrowly and enjoys the journey as well as the destination. She may not become a literal superhero but I hope she retains that sense of passion, joy and ambition even when the realities of adult life bring other diversions and responsibilities.