By Nitten Nair/We are taught from a very young age to have career goals and to “aim” to be at the top of our chosen field before we decide to call it a day. I am sure many of you would have been asked the question, “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?”
This profound question sows the seeds of having a career goal or objective into our lives from our very first interview. Nowadays, most graduates have a pre-prepared answer for this before they sit for an interview and have rehearsed the answer for multiple scenarios.
Most of the goals revolve around the position or designation you would like to see yourself in or the paycheck that you take home at the end of the month. For others, they go through life without any goals and like to call it “going with the flow” or “to wherever life takes me”. Both approaches have their own benefits and drawbacks. Many professionals fail to realize that there is another approach.
When I started out my career as a bartender in J W Marriott, Mumbai, my idea of having a successful career was to be the Food and Beverage Manager. I even said that in my interview. I felt that once I get my own office and get to wear a suit, I have become a success in my chosen industry. That lasted for 8 months. I got promoted as the Head Bartender and was the youngest Head Bartender in the history of the hotel till then. That is when I realized that the next promotion would not be as quick and the competition would be tougher.
I realized quite early in my career that those five year plans were not as solid as I initially felt. Being the impatient ambitious guy I was, these plans would not hold my enthusiasm for long and I would be demotivated quite soon. Then I spent almost a year not knowing what I wanted to do in my career and like all confused young adults of my time went ahead and did an MBA instead of taking a year off and traveling. Bad choice in hindsight.
But that year and a half did wonders for me at a different level. I was able to set two sets of goals – academic and career. Will discuss academic goals in another post.
That is when I realized that our goals need not be based on specifics but on end objectives. Growth in my career has always come to me as I was not focused on the journey but on the simple silly targets I set for myself. As I was not focused on the specifics of my journey, I was able to enjoy it to the maximum and learn something new every day.
My career goals have never been to a particular company I want to work for (Although I still dream of the day I work for Google – even as a janitor) or the designation I want to have in a pre-defined amount of time. It was never even about the type of job even though I do have preferences on what I will do and what I won’t. Nor was it about working in a particular country or city. In all these regards, I let the universe dictate the journey and have no regrets in all the ups and downs I have faced. It was all worth it.
Before moving to Dubai, my career objectives were raw. Blame it on the limited exposure people from the subcontinent have in careers other than engineering and medicine. As I complete four working years in Dubai (19 years in total), I have a firm grasp on my career objectives. Reading through my list will give the impression of having an extremely silly or even shallow approach to something that the majority of the world takes very seriously. All I can say is… It works!!
My career objective list is as follows –
- Start my own company (Done)
- Work in a boutique agency (Done)
- Start a whole new business unit (Done)
- Win a regional award (Done)
- Win an International Award (Done)
- Work in a NASDAQ listed company (Done)
- Work in a Billion Dollar company (Done)
- Have a monthly income of XX, XXX AED (Almost there)
- Work for a government entity (Pending)
- Work for a company with its name on the building (Technically Done but would put it as Pending)
- Win a Cannes Lion (Pending)
This list will get added on and amended as I go on with my career but I will never limit myself to the conventional process of defining a career. The only definitive goal in my list is the last one. It is there for a purpose – to be my defining moment. The moment when I decide that my career is no longer about objectives, growth, goals and targets but to shift gears into a more holistic level.
This might make my CV a little volatile for traditional recruiters and bring up red flags but hey… At the end of the day, all that matters is whether my career has brought fulfillment to myself.
To quote the immortal Michael Jackson – “It’s time to stop existing and start living.”