I just passed my 53rd birthday on May 28th, and as I start thinking about how I want to spend the next 20+ years of employment I find myself reading blogs and articles about decision making. Now that I have a ‘real’ career for the first time, with credentials to back that up, I’m finally thinking about more than my current job and what the next one might be when I hit a wall here. Now my thoughts turn to professional development, whether my current employment will give me what I need over the long term, and how specialized I want to become. I suppose to many this seems like a subtle shift, but for me it marks a major rite of passage that many experience much earlier in life.
I have always been interested in too many things and pulled in too many directions. My life is filled with rabbit holes I felt had to follow. I love to learn, to research, to explore. I have been able to find happiness (or at the very least contentment) in just about every job I’ve ever held. Even part time retail jobs and delivering newspapers didn’t bore me. The exceptions to this are rare and were always about the work environment and culture and, yes, the management or supervisory situation, and not about me and my interest in the job at hand.
Doing the job, doing it well, and trying to learn something new every day has been my personal work model. Asking questions when I don’t know something, being honest when I make mistakes, and being part of the solution even if it wasn’t my mistake have always been key components of my work life. I have always tried to uphold the highest sense of integrity I can, wherever I’ve worked. This usually leads to very high job satisfaction even when I know it’s not a long term situation, and has sustained me long after others may have tapped out.
But now what? Now that I have a career—now that what I’m doing isn’t just a job—what’s next? Do I stay where I am? Do I start looking for the next opportunity? Do I find a mentor (which I sort of have already, but should I formalize that?)? Do I offer to mentor others?
So as I said earlier, I’ve been reading blogs and articles for some ideas and directly, and a few really have me thinking, including the Richard Branson blog I mentioned in my last post. The most recent is a blog by Blake Fletcher entitled, “What To Do Next? (http://blakefletcher.ca/blog/deciding-what-to-do-next/).” I liked it a lot. In fact, I liked it so much I created a little worksheet based on it. I haven’t gone through the worksheet yet because I think I need a sizable chunk of uninterrupted time to focus on it, but I’m really looking forward to trying it out. If it goes well, I may share it here later.
One of the things that Mr. Fletcher discusses about his decision-making process when he came to a career crossroads is doing a mind dump—just writing down everything that comes into your head when you ask yourself the question, “What could I do?” He then moves on to “What I want to achieve,” “Where I want to go,” and finally, “What’s the best choice?” (These designations are mostly mine, by the way, made up to help me create the aforementioned worksheet.) Throughout the process he made lists, including examining and creating a hierarchy of his values, and finally looked for patterns across all the lists he had made. This really helped him see what mattered most to him and gave him a roadmap to follow. It was very interesting to note that he felt the mind dump needed to include staying put and continuing to do what he was already doing. Crossroads do, after all, have a road that continues on in addition to having branches going in other directions.
As someone who has too many interests, this approach appeals to me. If I can get it all down on paper, maybe I can see a pattern, too. Something that will help me decide what’s next for me.