First, there is the notion of, “If I don’t do it now, I will never be able to do it…” Think of the traditional entry-level jobs post-college or a career that requires you to be a certain age, like a military pilot. You are only able to do those jobs at a certain young age. If you know what you want to do, don’t let calendar avoidance eliminate pursuit of a dream.
But I am thinking of the other parts of the career timeline spectrum. Recently, while chatting with a woman about her future she said impatiently, “My career clock is ticking.” She went on to explain, “I only have one or two jobs left in me, I better get out there if I am going to accomplish what I want.” She was working backward from retirement, not looking forward from college.
Most of us are somewhere between right out of college and working backwards from retirement but the career timeline principle still applies. Who does a career timeline apply to and when? Answer is everyone and all the time. Here’s why:
- Entry-level jobs can stay entry level for a long, long time if you are not careful. Sometimes a move is necessary to get past the new kid on the block. Break out of those “entry-level” jobs as soon as you can and accelerate your timeline.
- Mid-level career jobs can be a waste of talent if you are not careful. It’s easy to get stuck. And, when you are “stuck” it is easy to be eliminated when there is a downsizing. If you have ever uttered the phrase, “By this point in my career I thought I would be further along” you need to ask yourself very tough questions. Are you doing what you want to do? Are you making a difference? Most importantly, how long have you been at this and how long do you want to do this? It may be time to see if your career timeline will allow you to do other things.
- Everyone reaches a point where you are no longer preparing for the next thing. At some point you are not preparing for graduate school. You are not preparing for a “real” job. You are not preparing for what you really want to do. As one friend put it, “I am no longer rehearsing for the next thing.” If that’s the case and the preparation is over, is this where you want to be?
- Self assessment is always useful. Gauge where you are relative to where you want to be for your age. If you are on target or way ahead, no changes may be needed. If you are way behind it might be time to plot out the career timeline and make changes.
When it comes to your career, are you working from a timeline? If not, put a little thought into where you are, where you want to be and what is left. The timeline can guide you more than you think.
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