Career Planning?

A friend invited me to reflect on my work the other day, and I mentioned that I’m at some kind of strategic inflection point in my career.

She challenged me to reconsider the idea of planning a “career.” Where, after all, was that idea coming from?

I was stumped: it’s the word I’m used to using, but I have to agree it doesn’t quite fit my situation anymore.

Like swapping “role” (or sometimes “opportunity”) for “job,” this is a clear example of a place where I need to expand the boundaries of my language in order to unframe my thinking.

Now that most of my peers and I are really confronting the reality that most of us will likely hold many roles, each for only a relatively short time, what I think we’re looking for is not so much a career as a series of projects that add up to a legacy we’re proud of.

I can’t think of anyone my age off the top of my head who’s building a career in the way that my grandfather had at GE or my uncle had in the law. The plan isn’t to find the right organization, but rather (at least among those who are stepping into the new way) to organize the opportunities that will help us grow and give back in the ways we want.

Simply changing premises — from planning my career to looking for the next interesting and impactful project — might turn out to be the real strategic shift after all.