I am a planner. I make no qualms about it. If you read my last blog post, you’ll also know that I’m an INTJ and have “strategic” as one of my StrengthsFinders areas. I’m obviously also a career counselor.
So, given all that, it may be a surprise to read the advice I’m about to give to you: chill out about your career.
Although I’m a planner and a career counselor, I’m also a believer in the Chaos Theory of Career Development (see this article by Bright, Pryor and Harpham). In case you’re not into reading scientific journals, I’ll give you the short version. The Chaos Theory of Career Development suggests that chance events dramatically impact our career decisions. This might be in the form of taking an elective course that becomes a passion, or riding an elevator with a stranger who ends up hiring you for an internship (it’s called an elevator speech for a reason, right?). Or it might take the form of getting hit by a bus, receiving great care and deciding to become a nurse.
Beyond your college years, it could mean pitching in on a project for a work friend and realizing that it’s the type of work you should have been pursuing all along. Or taking a temporary job to fill the gap before you find a “real” job and realizing you adore the company for which you are temping.
What I’d like you to consider as you move through life is that ANYTHING can lead you to a new exciting place or give you a new focus. You need to be open and ready to accept new information and let that new information inform you. I’m not suggesting that you be impulsive, nor am I suggesting that everything that happens is a sign from the cosmos. But, I work with a lot of students who “just know” they want to go into accounting or become a veterinarian or insert another career here, when I can tell that they have built these dreams from past information to the exclusion of new information, and often these students are the most stressed out — even more stressed than those who don’t know what they want to pursue.
Maybe you are meant to be an accountant or a vet or what-have-you. But, I’d like you to test that hypothesis through multiple means (courses, job shadowing, informational interviewing, etc.) and then continue on your path. Once you’re headed down that path, I’d like you to be “flexibly focused” on that goal. Don’t let the fact that you’ve set a goal be the only reason that you don’t stray from it. If the tide turns, maybe you need to turn with it.
So, I say chill out a bit. Keep working hard, continue meeting people and processing new information. And above all, take a deep breath and remain open to taking advantage of the interesting things that life will present to you.
Gary is a 15-year veteran of higher education in variety of student services and managerial roles at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Georgia State University and the University of Washington. His areas of expertise as a student services professional include dynamic group presentations, internships, and department marketing, strategy and technology utilization. He is currently assistant director for business-related internships at University Career Services at UNC-Chapel Hill. In addition to blogging, Gary is professionally active on twitter.com (@garyalanmiller), 12seconds.tv, and linkedin.com, and is among the first higher education professionals to launch a social media resume. He is also a musician, hobbyist entrepreneur and father of a beautiful baby boy named Kirby.