I often talk about planning and building a skill set throughout a career as if it is a straight linear path. However, many professionals face one or more obstacles that change their ‘career path’. Perhaps it is a ‘bump’ like having to take a fifth year in college to earn a degree. Perhaps it is a ‘detour’ like having to take a job in another profession because you cannot get employed. Perhaps it is a ‘stop sign’ due to a life-changing experience –an accident, ailment, or mental illness. The simple fact is most obstacles are unforeseen and impact our ability to make career progress.
A bump … I started a fulltime MBA program but did not finish it; though, I learned a lot in a year. I doubt I will ever finish the degree. Nevertheless, to move forward, I learned to develop websites – something I have been doing for the past seven years. When I came up with the concept of a mainstream personal website service, I leveraged my skills in management from my one and half degrees (bachelors and 1 year towards a MBA) to build the business. It is possible to respond to setbacks, and sometimes with little disruption.
A detour … Sometimes there are more serious obstacles that force you to rethink your career path. I had a friend who had a childhood dream of being a doctor, so he studied premed for his bachelors. He took the MCAT, but did not score high enough to get into medical school – a difficult feat, only 9 percent of applicants are accepted. It was disappointing for him, but to move forward, he applied his knowledge of medicine to build a career in selling pharmaceuticals to doctors. Career maturity involves properly assessing your skills and taking realistic, yet necessary steps forward.
A stop sign… I had the fortune of reading, One Door Closes: Overcoming Adversity by Following Your Dreams by Tom Ingrassia, an extraordinarily inspirational book. The book is a collection of stories told by everyday people who are confronted with a seemingly overwhelming obstacle and overcome it with courage and perseverance. Some of these obstacles include getting cancer, being paralyzed from a car accident, and experiencing the loss of loved ones. Rather than ask for sympathy (which is reasonable), these people inspire with wise words of wisdom:
Follow your passion and you CAN do anything you want (pg. 34)… If you can think, you can do it (pg. 47)… Expect the worse, hope the best (pg. 67).[i]
Major obstacles often force you to stop thinking about your career and concentrate on overcoming them. When you are ready, reassess your skill competencies and create a new career plan. Whether you reconstruct parts of a previous one or create an entirely new one, you put your best foot forward as you rebuild your career.
There are a few reasons why you should use the Skills-Based Approach methodology as you move through an obstacle. First, skills are readily apparent. You simply come up with a list of skills you have an expertise in at any point in your career. Second, skill competencies are easy to assess. What if you did not finish a degree or credential but you still learned something? What if you have a degree but have not applied what you had learned in years? What if you go through a major change and must reacquaint your bearings? Third, skills can be learned many different ways. Perhaps you have a degree in website design but took a job in another field to pay the bills, so now you decide to take a MOOC to learn about the most recent programming trends in HTML5.
[i] Tom Ingrassia. One Door Closes Overcoming Adversity by Following Your Dreams. (MotivAct Publishing, 2013).