“Two roads diverge in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
One of my favorite poems to date is a poem written by Robert Frost called The Road Not Taken. I love this poem because the imagery in my mind makes me think of a beautiful fall day in the woods with colorful fall leaves. And in the woods, there would be two distinctive dirt road paths. One with several footprints with rocks and leaves scattered on the side….and one just as smooth and completely untouched.
And while I’ve created this beautiful picture in my head, I feel like this entire poem is about life and the choices we make along the way. The last sentence that I quoted, leaves you thinking about the path that’s less traveled. And that probably benefits us the most, because it’s important to make choices and accept the good or bad consequences that come from our decisions.
I think the same can be applied to the career paths we choose. I recently had a friend of mine who called me frustrated about really figuring out her career plan for the next several years. And while I completely understood her frustration in trying to grasp the different options ahead of her, I applauded her for thinking of her future and being determined to find success for herself. So, this leads to my first major point.
1. You need to have a career plan.
I have continued joy in helping my clients create resumes to help them apply to positions shortly after. However, my goal is never to just get you a job, my goal is to get you the position that will put you on the path toward success. Even if your situation is that right now you just need to get back on your feet, there’s nothing wrong with valuing yourself, and making sure that you select a position that aligns with your priorities, your core values, your strengths, and improves your challenges. It’s about selecting a position that doesn’t just get you through the year but sets you up for career growth for the next few years to come. And if you choose not to have a plan, you set yourself up to be disappointed in the job you took, not willing to stay a full year, and now you are back online searching for a new position.
You need to have a plan. And it’s okay to be specific and tailored in your decision because you want that position to benefit you to the greatest ability. The next thing to consider is what is going on in your life right now. And the best way to do that is to:
2. Make your career goals align with your priorities and personal goals.
In 2020 with Covid-19 running rapid, one of the things the workplace realized was that people’s priorities had changed. And while the world is desperately trying to go back to the way it was, deep down on a personal level, I don’t think anyone is quite the same. People’s priorities changed to keeping families healthy, living closer to them, and realizing that working remotely was the best thing since sliced bread. Now, this is not everyone’s story, but my point is, that as you develop your career plan, you must consider your personal life as well.
Maybe you need a position that is completely remote or maybe a hybrid approach just to get out of the house for a day or two a week. Maybe you have been thinking about a private sector certification even though you work for the federal government, but your greater plan is to go to the private sector, so you go for the goal anyways. Maybe you already have an established career, but never got your bachelors degree and you just need to make sure you have the flexibility in hours at work to get the school work done. And perhaps you don’t have any idea what you want to do. I would suggest taking a career aptitude or personality test like Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI Test) or DiSC Personality Test. And there are free ones online you can take as well. Whatever the situation is, keep your personal goals a priority when creating your career plan.
So, I mentioned some personal situations that could easily be you, myself, or someone else you know. And that’s why my goal in my resumes is to not just get you a job. This may surprise people, but money is not the leading factor in everyone’s career search. Now don’t get me wrong, the salary is important. And if that’s your goal, I completely get it. However, I know plenty of people who make six figures but are overworked, stressed out, hate going back to traveling to the office, and don’t have time for their kids. There are just more things to consider as to what is going on in your life that impacts your timeline. So that leads me to my last point:
3. Figure out your career plan timeline.
A timeline is important as you must consider whether you need a short-term right-away plan or a long-term plan based on life’s priorities. So, what should be your focus on how far out your plan should be? And the answer to that is simple, it depends. Maybe you just got into the federal government but should wait 3 years to get tenure before you move to a higher-paying position in the private sector. Perhaps you already have an established career and want to look at the big picture for retiring comfortably. And that may be the plan for the next ten years out. Maybe you are a busy working mom or dad and find that a remote position is the best way for you to be successful. So, you base your career timeline on when your children will finish elementary or middle school. You see there is so much to consider in the timeline of your own life. So examine what is important to you, what you can control, and let that guide you as to how far your career plan should go.
I also wanted to mention the Robert Frost poem because sometimes you’ll make a career plan that other people won’t agree with. When I applied for my first position, I was told I would never be selected out of hundreds of other students, and I was foolish to quit my part-time job at the dollar store to do this position. However, if we listen to people or seek validation from others so much, we leave ourselves wondering the “what ifs” instead of the “we tried.” Sometimes we decide to take the road that others will not likely take. But I am living proof that in taking that less trodden road, that it has made all the difference.