I read an article this past weekend on career planning that was written by Marc Andreessen in 2007. It is one of the most fascinating and genuine pieces I have ever read. The fact is it eight years old and still amazingly relevant, speaks to the author’s depth of knowledge on the subject.
His takeaway message: Don’t plan your career. Leave it alone. It will only frustrate you.
Instead focus on developing your skills and pursing opportunities.
He is exactly right. Reflect on your own career for a second. Is your career path entirely linear? Mine isn’t. My first ambition was to be a disc jockey. To achieve it, I worked hard, taking overnight shifts at local radio stations until I got my first full-time job on air at a country music station. I can still remember the Billboard Top 10 from my last year in the business, because I hustled and worked hard.
I looked for those opportunities to my come my way. If I was not looking, they would have disappeared as fast as they came. It is the same way I continue to look for risk as a compliance practitioner. To be relevant, we have to stay current. Compliance, like our world, is incredibly complex and rapidly-changing. I cannot accurately predict what is going to happen in the future. I may think I know, but I have no idea. This includes what companies I work for, what my job might look like, my role, and ultimately my contributions. This is why is so much smarter to focus on opportunity.
I waited until my last paragraph to mention salary. Don’t get me wrong. The money’s great. I like paying my bills. But if I am receiving an exorbitant salary working at a job that doesn’t not satisfy me, I work longer, and harder trying to convince myself that I like it, and overcompensating for receiving a great amount of dough.
You cannot buy peace of mind. Stretch assignments, where you can learn and grow; having a rich mix of quality and depth of critically-thinking colleagues; and the flexibility of the working environment and your cultural fit mean more. Now, I also realize a lot depend on where you are in your career. That’s also dependent on risk. If you are younger, jump on the startup. If you are sixty, and still paying your daughter’s credit card bills, think twice.
Only you can define your risk.
But without risk, there is no reward.
And there is nothing like defining your own career.
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