Have you ever had that sinking feeling that the finish line is not really the end of the race? Maybe you were an athlete and you’d have a coach who would pile on extra conditioning just when you thought you were done the practice. Perhaps you’ve been through some life-challenge, like a medical one, and just when you think the worst is over, something else pops up. Maybe, it’s dating, and he seemed perfect at first, but the more you know, the less he shines. You find yourself waiting for the next dark secret to surface.

None of these examples is a particularly happy story, yet each scenario would be easier to swallow if one knew from the outset what one was getting into.  So, we wrap this series on knowing what’s next in your career, with the process nature of career navigation.

As you think about what’s next in your career, it is tempting to think that if you just get this move right, you’ll be done, set for the rest of your work journey.

Perhaps this was the case a generation ago, but no longer. Most of us will have many jobs at a number of firms in multiple career lanes. Gone are the days of “fix it and forget it” when it comes to career navigation.

Facing the Reality of a Changing Work Landscape

Much is being written about how AI will transform work. The more capable and integrated tech becomes, the more it will shape the way we work and the work we are needed to do. While AI is on the horizon, there’s already plenty of change happening in the market for talent today. Much of these changes are at the micro level-specific firms and industries. Yet they still send people like you into job and career change.

No Hits at Google: One of my clients works at Google. The division she’s in has little optics for the sophisticated computer science applications she learned how to build through her Ivy League education and internships. She’s heading to grad school to open doors for more options.

Analyst, analyze thyself: John (name changed), was an award-winning analyst, he focused on a specific sector, knew everything about it, and even won awards. Unfortunately, he was a winner at a losing game, the market for his kind of analysis is going away AND the company he worked for, was dogged by poor financial health. John is taking his skills and working to market them in a different application. He has to get out of his dying industry.

Victim of his own Success: Clay has had a number of senior financial management jobs with a multinational consumer products company. He has always performed well, especially when corporate needed someone to parachute in and turn a business unit around. But now Clay is bored! The culture of distrust and the layers of bureaucracy have worn him down. He is considering a very different kind of role in the CSuite of a start-up.

Left Behind. Don had a great job managing sourcing risk for a large multinational food company. The company was purchased by a firm based in Nebraska. Nothing against Nebraska, but Don is not willing to uproot his family from the Northeast. The geographic shift of the firm is forcing him to rethink what’s important, where he must live, and what is important to him in a job and career.

All of these cases demonstrate the fallacy that we can find our dream job and then set it and forget for the rest of our lives.

On the market side, dream jobs don’t last: the industry, process, and people morph over time.

Today’s dream job could turn into a nightmare tomorrow. On our side of the ledger, our priorities, goals, and requirements for our work evolve over time. Neither side is static, and therefore we must constantly keep our heads in the game of matching our real selves to real-world opportunity.

Never Quitting the Career Change Game

Here’s what I see, talking to hundreds of professionals from 25 to 60, in the busiest, most competitive job market in the US: unplanned career change is MUCH easier when you’re prepared.

When you know what you’re good at and why, when you know which companies and industries are growing and why, you are miles ahead of the others in your age cohort.

This is being proactive instead of reactive. It’s seeing danger company and preparing, instead of crossing your fingers and hoping that what happens to everyone (an unplanned, forced exit), won’t happen to you. It will. At some point in your career, you will lose a job. If you are at all normal, there will be a time when you find that it takes longer to get a new job than you thought it should. And if you know this requires deep knowledge, and you know where to find personal clarity, and you know how to garner real-world intel about what’s possible, you’ll be able to make your way to your next.

At various points along the way, this kind of optimism is easier said than done. And so we conclude with a few words of hope and promise.

There’s A Plan for Your Work

Even when we can’t see what’s next in our career or when the only options forward all seem like drudgery, it is hope-giving to preach the following words to ourselves.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

If you’ve been churchified throughout your life, you may well be suffering from a very limited definition of “good works.” Good works could be limited to church service or serving the poor, or boy scout stuff like helping old people across the street. Why is this? Why does institutional religious activity claim to control the market on good work?

What if what you do at work all day is just as good, just as connected with a bigger plan, just as important to the Creator?

The Apostle Paul is writing words that remind us that we have good work to do, good work includes our work life. And the path is already planned. Making your next career move is discovering God’s plan for your working life. He made you, carried you through the experiences that have shaped you, and has a plan for how your talent and experience will be good for his world.

His plan even includes all the switching we will do, the broader networks we will grow, and the broader experience we will develop in such a tumultuous work environment. Even in the throes of constant change, you still have good work to do at every stop on your career journey.

How About You?

  1. What about the idea that you will change jobs and careers is exciting? What about it is unsettling?
  2. What experiences have forced you to reconsider your career path?
  3. As you review this four-part series, what is the most helpful idea you’ve gleaned, and what actions will you take to maximize your career navigation process?

Dr. Chip Roper is the President and Principal Consultant of The VOCA Center. VOCA’s vision is to rescue individuals and teams from the forces that would rob them of joy and effectiveness at work. Certified in Executive Coaching at Columbia University, Chip tackles the vocational challenge from 30 years of experience as a small businessman, a pastor, a career coach, and a business consultant.  You can learn more about VOCA’s faith-based services at www.vocacenter.org and more about their commercial offerings at www.vocacenter.com.