Is your career by design, or formulated by default? asks Catherine Middleton

Have you ever wondered where your career would have taken you, if it had been planned?  Would you have made the same decisions, or perhaps mistakes, that have found you where you currently sit on the ‘barometer of life’?

I am not sure if when asked at school “What do you want to be when you grow up”? that many of us could have articulated a reasonable answer.  In days gone by (Yes, I am talking back in the late 1960s and early 1970s), women were, for the most part, designated into a small range of career options – administration, retail, nursing or hairdressing. These are all worthy professions. At that time, very few women attended university in the pursuit of a high-flying career.  On the positive side though, students were able to leave school and virtually walk straight into a job; they did not face the problematic situation we have today.

It wasn’t until I was at the ‘young’ age of forty, that I found my true purpose: secretary to the general manager of an insurance company.  I absolutely loved the role, and as a born organizer, it was the beginning of a career that perhaps I had always aspired to but didn’t know was possible.

In the demanding and ever-changing world of the professional executive assistant I worked in many different fields; from insurance to medicine to public service. In each role I was enriched both personally and professionally. I would never have believed how much personal growth occurs when you constantly aim at being the best you can be in your chosen field. It certainly takes commitment, but when you have a passion for what you do, that commitment is a natural part of providing a high level of service.

For administrative staff everywhere, it can be challenging to achieve the career you always dreamt of, and there will be a myriad of reasons why a particular career path didn’t quite eventuate the way you had hoped.  However, It is never too late to re-examine what it is you actually want from your career.  Think about what is it that you aspire to achieve; what industry, what role would give you job satisfaction?

Planning for where you want to be in your career, or for that matter your life, means that you must attribute resources, mainly time, to achieve an outcome.  You have to be able to take a step off the never- ending treadmill, to reassess what your proposed career looks like and work out how you are going to achieve that goal.  As everyone is at different stages of their life, it will be dependent on what is possible to achieve.  Considerations of the work/life balance must be taken into account.

If you would like a career by design, you will have to be committed to making it happen. The level of commitment is up to you. What can you do right now to get the ball rolling? You only have to take one step at a time. It doesn’t matter what the step is, just so long as you start putting one foot in front of the other.

For example, the first step may be as simple as reading a book or connecting to a professional group on LinkedIn. Both of these will give you access to so much information about your chosen industry or organisation in your specific field.  And taking the step to join a professional organisation will give you access to networking groups that speak the language you want to access; the language of professionalism. Whatever the first step is, take it now, while you are motivated to take action.

So, if your career is not meeting expectations, and you have outgrown your current role, or your career has been hijacked by everyday commitments, then it may be time to reassess.  Achieving a career by design is not always easy.  By learning the facets of professionalism, you can begin to design the best future you can imagine.

Catherine Middleton is a career management specialist who has a passion for assisting administrative professionals to achieve their career aspirations. A Fellow, plus past National President / Chair of the Board of Directors, of the Australian Institute ... (Read More)

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