April 22, 2024

An exclusive excerpt from Professional Careers by Design

Excerpted from Chapter 3 of Professional Careers by Design: A Handbook For the Bespoke Life (BookBaby, April 30, 2024).

Professional Careers by Design book

Each of us comes to our careers with a set of hopes and dreams for where we will land. We don’t always know how things will work out, but we often have a general sense. When I start working with clients, I find that they generally bring one of two approaches to career planning to our work. The first involves “climbing the ladder,” checking off boxes as they go, and moving “up,” though it’s not always clear to them what “up” looks like. Sometimes they wonder whether their ladder is leaning against the right wall. These individuals often find themselves frustrated as they advance because the view from the middle of the ladder, or even from the top rung, is not what they expected. I often meet these people at mid-career when they seek coaching either because they:

  • realize they’ve become disillusioned
  • feel ready to build their own ladder and redefine what it means to climb

The second approach I commonly see is what Mary Catherine Bateson describes as discontinuity in her book, Composing a Life. People who take this approach tell me, “I just got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time, and never really planned my career formally.” They are sometimes satisfied with where they end up, but they may be wondering why they have not been selected for advancement or new positions. They may have a highly refined set of relationships that they know how to leverage (this may in fact be the origin of their perceived “luck”). They may not really understand the politics of their profession, organization, or team and feel stuck as a result. Clients often call this approach “the flight of the bumblebee.” When I meet people who have taken this approach, it’s often either because they:

  • feel their luck has run out, and they can’t figure out how to get back on track.
  • are being recruited for an advanced position they can’t imagine they are ready or qualified to accept.

No one approach to career design is right or wrong, but I have seen hundreds of people become unstuck when they embrace a more strategic approach that borrows from each of these approaches and grounds them in core values and priorities.

Professional Careers by Design™ is not just for those who are mid-career, senior in their field, getting promoted beyond their confidence level, or hitting a wall. This model is for everyone, and the earlier in your career that you adopt the Professional Careers by Design™ approach, the more intentional your decisions will be—and the more successful you will be, no matter what circumstances life presents. The sooner you start, the more alignment you will find between what you are doing to make a living and what you are doing to make a life for yourself and those you care about. This is truly a Bespoke Life.

Order your copy of Professional Careers by Design: A Handbook For the Bespoke Life now wherever books are sold and leave your honest thoughts in the form of a review!

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