Figuring Out Your Career Without A Career Plan
Don’t bother trying to come up with a career plan. That’s my career advice to young people. If you’re beginning your career, career planning will just screw you up. It will paralyze you and mess with your ability to pursue your career success. At least, being obsessed with coming up with a career plan is a great way to create a lot of confusion, frustration, and misery for yourself.
Because, consider this. How do you make a career plan when you have little idea what career choices and options are out there and available to you? Even if you identify a career objective, what’s your ability to know what it takes to achieve it? Or, how do you determine a career plan when you don’t even know what you like doing or are really good at yet? No wonder so many young professionals are lost and confused. Because frankly, career planning isn’t realistic.
Instead, here’s the reality. Most of the highly successful people I know never planned to pursue what they’re currently doing right now. This includes me. I never could have imagined my career path back when I was in my 20s. I never thought I’d work for a toy company, a computer company, or spend most of my career in China. I never thought I’d start my own company and become a career and talent development professional. The truth is, I’ve never had a specific career objective or a career plan. But to find my passion and achieve the success I sought, I did recognize the importance of three things.
Direction – As a young person, just try to determine a good road to travel for your career. Just generally point yourself in the right direction. Because if you’re not traveling the right road for yourself, no matter what moves or decisions you make, they’re not going to get you closer to the kind of success you seek.
To determine a good direction, I tell people to identify 3 elements that you hope can always be part of the situations you’re in and the things you do. Once you identify these 3 elements, then for whatever opportunity or situation you encounter, determine how much these elements are part of it. If they’re not, or only to a small degree, then sorry. It won’t be a situation that you’re going to be happy in or motivated to do for very long.
For example, when I was an R&D engineer early in my career, the 3 elements that defined my situation then were engineering/manufacturing, product design, and analytical thinking. No wonder I eventually grew unhappy and unmotivated in this job. None of these elements are what I’m particularly interested in or care about. After leaving engineering, I began searching for what I might be much more motivated and even passionate about doing. It took me about a month of soul-searching, but the 3 elements I eventually came up with were business, helping people, and China.
自那以后，我一直用这三个元素来帮我找到适合我和符合我目标的平台。如果这三个元素在我考虑的新机会中比重不大, 我就会放弃它然后继续寻找。所以, 在我所有的职场变动和工作中, 你都会看到这三个元素。
Ever since, I’ve used them to help me join situations that are a good fit for who I am and what I want to pursue. If these 3 elements weren’t a big part of a new situation I was considering, I stopped pursuing it further. So if you look at all my career moves and job situations, you’ll see these three elements.
灵感--想要对你所做的事充满激情, 却不知道如何去找到它？那你需要灵感，它可以来自你遇到的人, 你到过的地方, 或你所做的事情。和大多数年轻人一样, 我先是发现了我不喜欢做的事, 但完全不清楚我到底喜欢做什么。我只知道我需要离开让我没有灵感的环境。
Inspiration – Want to feel passionate about what you do, but don’t know how to find it? Then you need inspiration. It can come from people you meet, places you visit, or something you do. Like most young people, I found out what I didn’t enjoy doing first, but had no idea what I might enjoy doing. I only I knew I had to leave the situation I felt little inspiration in.
然后, 我试着和那些对自己的事业充满活力、激情和乐在其中的人交流。这些人都是值得我深入了解的。你可能并不知道他们为什么那么喜欢自己的工作， 但值得去了解清楚。我会问他们是如何找到让他们充满激情的事业。他们从哪里得到了灵感？他们如何应对艰巨的职业挑战？这类人会给你带来很多值得借鉴和尝试的想法和灵感。
Then, I just tried to talk to people who had the energy, passion, and enjoyment towards what they did that I wanted to have too. Those are people worth getting to know and understanding better. You may not know what they like about what they do, but it’s worthwhile to find out. I’d asked people about how they discovered their passion. Where do they get their inspiration from? How do they deal with difficult career challenges? Such people will give you ideas and inspiration that you can apply to your situation.
有一个人，我以前在王安电脑的老板，就曾今对我的事业产生过巨大的影响。事实上, 他就是我加入公司的一个重要原因。他精力充沛、有魅力、风度翩翩、 大方、 积极。我从他那儿得到了很多对自己职业生涯的启发, 学到了该如何实现我的职业目标。这些不光来源于平时和他的交流, 更多是通过观察他在工作中的所作所为。
For instance, a person who had a huge impact on my career was my former boss at Wang Computers. In fact, a big reason I joined the company was just to work for him. He was energetic, engaging, personable, generous, and positive. I got many ideas about what I wanted my own career to look like, and how to approach it. Not only from talking to him, but just from watching and being around him.
行动-- 如果你只是坐在那里凭空遐想, 你永远不会有灵感,也不会发现自己真正喜欢做什么。你必须通过亲身实践来了解你对一些事情的感受以及你对它们的反应。所以, 为了能更好地了解自己, 发现自己的兴趣所在, 快点行动起来，去找些事儿做，任何事都行！
Action – You’ll never feel inspiration and find out what you really enjoy doing by just sitting around thinking about it. You get to know how you feel about things by doing and experiencing them, and then noticing your reaction to them. So to understand yourself better and discover what you like, get out and do things. Anything!
对我来说, 25岁时的中国之旅改变了我的人生。那次旅行是我留在这里超过20年的原因。在读 MBA 的时候, 我加入了亚洲管理学生协会, 从而发现了自己对领导力的潜力和兴趣。和我的叔叔们谈论他们的工作同样启发了我。在我的整个职业生涯中, 某些对话和经历引导了我去我追求不一样的东西,而现在这些东西是我生活中非常重要的组成部分。
For me, coming China when I was 25 changed my life. That trip is why I’ve been here over 20 years (and counting!). Getting involved in the Asian Management Students Association in my MBA program helped me discover my potential and interest in leadership. Talking to my uncles about what they did, and why, also inspired me. Throughout my career, certain conversations and experiences have led me to pursue different things that are now a big part of my life.
所以，积极邀请那些你认为优秀的人去喝咖啡或吃午饭。学习他们的经验，包括对自己工作的想法和建议, 他们为什么喜欢这份工作, 以及怎么才能做好这份工作。在社交活动中认识更多人，做志愿者，多参加一些活动，出席研讨会，参观一些新地方。这些都很好！而待在家里看书，看视频，听直播？这就不好说了。
So invite the people who catch your attention out for coffee or lunch. Pick their brain about what they do, why they like it, and what it takes to be very good at it. Meet people at social and networking events. Volunteer for something. Join activities. Attend seminars. Visit places. It’s all good! Just sitting at home, reading books, or watching videos and listening to podcasts? Don’t know.
方向!灵感!行动! 与其折磨自己去制定一个职业计划, 不如把自己引导到一个正确的方向上, 在你遇到的人和你经历的事情中寻找灵感, 去探索世界而不是规划未来。我们且把这些叫做你的职业规划吧。我认识的很多在事业上成功和快乐的人都是这样做的。
Direction! Inspiration! Action! Rather than torturing yourself trying to determine a career plan, point yourself in a good direction, look for inspiration in the people you meet and things you experience, and explore the world instead. And let’s just call this your career plan. It’s how many people I know who have achieved a successful and happy career have done it.