We are encouraged to think about our career, constantly. It starts from an early age. Parents, teachers, school and further education all refer to career, as we make choices about schools, subjects, classes, areas of study, qualifications… We are encouraged to aspire. Aspiration often measured by the grades we get, the university or college we go to, the job we get, the seniority we attain, the pay level we reach…
How will we spend our working lives? In a profession, as a manager, owning our own business, with a portfolio career, following a vocation…? What kind of work do we want to do? What expertise, qualifications, skills, learning do we need for that?
Then when we start work, chances are we have a performance review or a discussion with a line manager, exploring how we might develop our career. We are encouraged to seek new challenges, new opportunities, new skills, new experiences. Maybe we get bored with our job, or learn what satisfies us or motivates us, and so seek to move our career to a different path?
Career seems almost to have become a synonym for life at work, for progression, recorded by the job sequence captured on our CV, our roles, our employers, our promotions, our job titles…
The origin of words is fascinating, especially in the context of how they are understood and used today.
Career comes from the Latin Carrus – a wheeled vehicle. Taking us on a journey. Adopted in French as Carrière and Italian as Carriera, it referred to the road we take. One Oxford English Dictionary definition of career is a person’s “course or progress through life”. Life’s journey if you will.
It doesn’t specify work, job, promotion, pay, skills, grade or profession.
So, maybe the question “Where is your career going?” is in itself limiting? Perhaps a better question would be “How do you plan to progress through life?”
This bigger perspective widens our choices. I might, for example, respond to this question, ‘being kind to other human beings’ or ‘being at peace with myself’ or ‘learning forever’ or ‘having fun’ or ‘being exhilarated by new challenges’.
This opens up possibilities. My choices are more rounded, more whole life. I can still occupy myself and earn a living in the context of these responses, but equally I can pursue them in all parts of my life. Home, hobbies, pastimes, leisure. With family, friends, alone or with like-minded individuals.
So maybe ask yourself not “Where is my career going?”
Instead ask yourself “How am I going to progress through life?” Or “What life course do I want?” Or “What will my life journey be?”
This may afford you more possibility, more freedom, more balance, more happiness.