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Designing a career you love



“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there,” according to Lewis Carrol.

There is great wisdom in that saying and as I look at many of us getting bogged down with the humdrum of daily life, we often are on a road with no known destination.

We are going down a path in our careers whose destination we do not care to know.

I watch with particular interest and amusement as I see how we carefully plan our weekends, painstakingly pick out our outfits for some or other social functions and with great meticulousness oversee every detail of our holidays.

Yet, when the euphoria from escaping our daily lives subsides and we go back to our offices with our holiday plans having been executed rather well, our careers remain with no plan in place.

The average person will start working at 20years old and retire at 65.

Working a moderate 8 hours per day for 50 weeks, making a total of 93 600 hours. That is almost a third of your productive adult life spent at work.

Yet, very few of us consciously design, carve and shape what our career will look like.

We spend very little time assessing our chosen industries to determine what the trends are and what the future will look like. Will our skills still be required?

What will the gaps be and how can we ready ourselves to stay relevant?

The truth is that most people will delve into various careers in their lifetime more so the millennial employee. Studies show that on average, an individual will have four to five career changes in a lifetime.

I look at how in the space of a decade I changed my career and industries three times. I started from the financial industry to telecommunications and now, I am in the professional services sector.

It was only later in my career I took certain opportunities by design in order to acquire a certain skillset; to work for a certain executive; to work in a particular country or to get exposure in a certain area.

Our workplace may not afford us the privilege of fulfilling our strategic work goals.

It is then critical that one takes responsibility and initiative for one’s own learning and development.

There are many tools you can access to drive this for yourself: from in-house work training, mentorship, coaching, to YouTube tutorials, books and online courses. Learning has never been easier.

With massive open online courses (MOOC) there is no longer any excuse as to why you aren’t chartering your own learning path.

Several studies from Mckinsey to the World Bank cite that the critical skills for the future of employment will be emotional intelligence; cognitive flexibility; creativity; service orientation; critical thinking and complex problem solving, just to mention but a few.

I am yet to see animated debates or trending discussion around the validity of these and the plans to acquire or improve them in ourselves.

What we are experts in today may not serve us tomorrow and instead may harbour our ability to think innovatively if we refuse to be flexible.

Many of us are careful in ensuring we keep to our annual doctors’ check-up, but remain passive toward the health of our careers.

This culture needs to change. I think we should think critically about where we are and where we want to be, and actively plan our route to our chosen career destination.

We also need to stop day-dreaming about our ideal role and instead, institute a career development plan; identify our key stakeholders who can support us in our journey; track our progress; review our learnings; analyse our gaps and conscientiously work towards the career of our dreams.

Vumi Msweli is a South African-born career coach, international speaker and the Chief Executive Officer for Hesed Consulting.

Hesed is a consulting firm specialising in commerce acceleration, career coaching, women empowerment, facilitation and training on the African continent.

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