The ideal career appears to be a highly curated timeline of elegantly held roles, on an always upwards trajectory, with greater and greater reward on each and every gilded step.

And yet we know, those of us who are at the far end of the journey, that this is a mirage of airbrushed unreality. Careers are not Instagram posts of perfect moments. Careers are recipe-free concoctions of luck, opportunity, hard work and talent. Nothing is permanent, perfect or predictable.

Someone I spoke to recently said he would stay in his role, even though he was bored of it and conventional thinking would suggest he should move. He said that if he moved it would just be “the same old crap plot, but with a different set of broken characters.”

Someone else I spoke to this week, who will start a new role in the New Year, is absolutely thrilled to have a new opportunity to start again. She has been worn down by a workplace that has only ever focussed on the next deal with an intensity that always takes her energy for granted, but never replaces it for her.

Both these calls were with brilliant people with CVs to die for, yet both had also been diminished by the attritional take-take-take of the workplace. Their conclusions were different, but we can all relate to the narrative.

The soft-focus on-line gurus may disagree, but my advice is to pack away any expectation that we can pilot our talent from one glamorous destination to another relying on a professional headshot, some mighty buzzwords and the faint whiff of entitlement based on the years we have worked beyond the date we qualified.

If we want to have a career that is good for us, our families, our wellbeing and the businesses we work in, I have some questions to reflect on and explore:

  • Are you prepared to change the way you behave, because personal growth is about what you can change, not what you can amplify.
  • Can you challenge without creating mistrust or extra stress for others?
  • Are you kind?
  • Do you live your values at work, or are they orphans to a quiet life of expediency?
  • Would you consider a sideways move (or even a step back) to learn something new?
  • Can you express your needs in ways that others can help you to meet them?
  • Can you describe the difference you have made?
  • How have you helped others to succeed?
  • Do you share unconditionally?
  • Can you describe your story with colour and joy and grace in a compelling way?

Your career path will most likely not be a stroll down a floodlit red carpet to an Oscar style retirement speech. It is more likely to be a yomping slog across a muddy field in the wrong shoes with an unhelpful commentary from your inner critic. Even so, I would love you to relish the journey, to live your story in the moment and to let your talent and potential wrap their arms around you.

Take care. Paul xx