On Careers – Paddling in my tiny Pond

As they all say, we are in an age when the concept of “a career for life” no longer works for most people. It’s almost taken for granted now that the path of spending your lifetime with a single employer or in a linear progression in a single job is no longer the advice or the reality. Now people are increasingly realising that the same applies to careers. Few careers last a life time. Sometimes the driving force is internal (i.e. we want a change) and other times, external (i.e. the world changed, and your job no longer existed).

In just three years at work, I have seen how passive some colleagues and even supervisors were about their own careers, merely reacting to the changes around them – and failing to keep up. Partners who have done IPOs and capital market works throughout their professional careers – the specialists – who when the work dried up, or markets and economies changed, or the axis of economic activity rotated, continued to cling on to the comfort of their old existence and specialities. They were like frogs refusing to leave a pond that was drying up. They were not inactive – they were trying very hard to find new clients, actively do business development etc., but all in the same field, looking for the same types of work. It seemed like a futile struggle for existence, scooping up water in a drying pond. Then they despair. That wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to become obsolete and be at a loss as to my purpose or role in life.

So, this is my letter to my future self soon to be stepping into my thirties… 

It may be a bit late, but better late than never. I wish I had thought about this much earlier, or had a more diverse interest when I was younger. Studied less, and do more.

Please always keep your life rich of activities and interests. Find yourself a life, an interest, a hobby beyond your job and career. Do something consistently and develop a skill, not because you need it for work progression, but because it is not related to work. Meet and interact with people and stop thinking that the only people that you make an effort to meet should be your old friends and your work acquaintances. Be pro-active about learning things outside of your scope of work and taking on additional responsibilities. Step outside your comfort zones. Really Really. It is not cliched advice. Do something with what you have learnt. Volunteer. Re-evaluate your work and career regularly. Every six months. Every year. Every Three Years.

I am not sure if children could be made better aware of this, or is it a realisation that comes only with time. But I wish I had been nudged slightly about this even as I had been asked as a kid, “What is your ambition?” and  “What do you want to do or study?” Having a well rounded personality and exposure is not for the sake of getting into a good university or having a more impressive resume. It is about a better and more satisfying life and career, and based on what I hear from some people, I doubt that even some people with perfect resumes appreciate how much it matters.

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