Keep your eyes on the prize

The road not taken

A long time ago, I was chatting with an HR manager at Philips. He was a veteran. At the time Shapeways was a Philips venture and we were located on their campus in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

I asked him what in his opinion the biggest mistakes was people make in their careers.

His answer was foregoing opportunities because the opportunity did not fit the career path they set out for themselves.

Employees come in from college with a general idea on how to they want their career to progress and they are laser-focused on following that career path. In their minds it is the path which they laid out for themselves is the only way to get where they want to end up.

In reality this often not the case and the path is not always as linear as you think it is. According to the HR manager, it often led to people getting stuck in a position without a clear path forward. For instance, their business unit might be showing neutral growth or – worse – negative growth. In the past, they passed on lateral moves because they were not upward nor fitted the path they set out to walk on.

His advice was to always seize the opportunity. Opportunities often arise out of success. In his career, most successful careers were people who took every opportunity which was presented to them – lateral or not.

The lesson is that whatever you do, keep your goals in mind but don’t worry too much about the path.

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