Best Advice: Be Intentional About Your Career Future

Best Advice

I thought the object was to find a job you liked, work hard, excel, and advance.


My parents were career computing professionals during an era when a Liberal Arts degree was valued. A high school diploma with a strong GPA and demonstrated achievements could be substituted for a degree in any job that didn’t require a license or certification e.g., Accounting, Law, Engineering. I thought the object was to find a job you liked, work hard, excel, and advance.

I was fortunate. I have had the opportunity in my career to do many interesting things and I have advanced. However, when I look back, I see where there were junctions when, had I applied intention, I would have had the opportunity to truly excel.

Tweet: I see where there were junctions when, had I applied intention, I would have had the opportunity to truly excel.

Weighing objective criteria, I could have narrowed my options to create focus.

High School did not prepare me to pick a career. There were so many things I could have been good at. To choose one was to not choose a hundred others. I chose one path, discovered its pitfalls and changed to another. I couldn’t focus and not having a focus meant I did not have a goal. Looking back it would have helped to have criteria other than what I enjoyed doing or what I was good at. Those criteria would have been the salary potential, the job market, the cost and duration of education required the career trajectory and the sacrifices necessary to succeed.

“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”  Earl Nightingale, Speaker and Author b.1921  d.1989

Apply objective criteria to the careers that attract you to narrow your options, establish your goals and gather momentum.

Avoid the mistakes I made in my career because I focused on job options rather than long term outcomes:

MISTAKE 1 – FAILING TO APPLY OBJECTIVE CRITERIA: Instead, I dabbled in what I enjoyed until I fortunately found a career in energy conservation and natural resources.

MISTAKE 2 – CONTINUING TO NEGLET OBJECTIVE INFORMATION: When my path veered, because I didn’t have the education required to advance my career in Natural Resource management, I made a compounding error. I invested in a Bachelor’s Degree to open doors that a High School diploma no longer could open. I continued to neglect other factors. I did not assess the career market to determine which degree would offer the greatest value, open the right doors, and allow me to excel in my career. I gained my degree in Psychology because psychology is interesting.  Being late to gain credentials and then obtaining the wrong credentials has been a costly mistake.

MISTAKE 3 – IGNORING THE COST OF STARTING OVER: Beginning my career again cost me income, income potential and retirement assets. It means that I am not now and may never be able to afford to retire comfortably.  I could have gained a degree in science and then an MBA to continue my career in Natural Resources management.  If I had gained a degree in science and an MBA, I would have been more competitive with the years of Natural Resource management experience I had already gained, allowing me to continue the trajectory I had unintentionally established and when I finished I would have been advanced in my field, not a fledgling.  Changing my professional field made me a beginner in my career again, setting my career back a full decade, when it was not necessary. I did not leave my job due to economic crisis; I left because I was no longer challenged.

MISTAKE 4 – UNDERRATING THE COMPETITION: Changing put me in competition with professionals who are much earlier in their careers, have strategic intent, want to excel in a Human Resources career and offer the passion and drive of young professionals.  If I truly sought to change my field, I could have gained a career with a need for talent, like Engineering, rather Psychology, a dominated by women and therefore low paying.

As a recruiter, I have reviewed tens of thousands of resumes and there observed that when professionals lack intention it is evident. 

After gaining my Psychology degree, when I became intentional about income, I was quite fortunate to secure an exciting recruiting role with a great company. I have been allowed the opportunity to grow and advance – and grow wiser about careers.  I have reviewed tens of thousands of resumes and there observed that when professionals lack intention it is evident.  Though they may have experience that is perhaps interesting and eclectic, they are not competitive with their more intentional peers. They do not excel at the same rate as those who follow a strategic path.

In summary, intelligence, education, drive, and commitment are critical to career success but without a career strategy, none of those can propel a professional to achieve their greatest potential.  Is it too late to establish intention? You cannot fully capture the opportunity lost but you can reduce your losses by becoming more intentional – certainly you can avoid mistakes.

1.  We end up in life where our intentions take us, and if we are unintentional where we end up will fall short.
2.  Wherever you are in your career journey, stop, assess, and determine your intention. Income security, recognition, influence, satisfaction and /or fulfilling obligations: any of these may be your intention.
3.  Work with a manager or mentor to create a development plan to address shortcomings that keep you from meeting your intentions, asking them to ensure you don’t unintentionally take a path of further setback.

Everyone, whether a parent, educator, mentor or community leader, can help people who are new to the workforce examine their intentions to make the most of their potential.  As individuals, families, congregations, communities, and as people that share a great nation, we will all then be better prepared for the future.

“The really magical things are the ones that happen right in front of you. A lot of the time you keep looking for beauty, but it is already there. And if you look with a bit more intention, you see it.” Vik Muniz, Artist and Photographer b.1961

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