Traditional 'Career Pathing' Is BS


As the summer months wind down for vacations at the office, a great use of the down time is to set some short and long-term career goals.  This practice encourages self-reflection and evaluation, helping to get us motivated and moving in an intentional direction.  Career pathing can also give us a strong sense of purpose.  It gives us an opportunity to set milestones and celebrate our successes as we reach them. This all sounds pretty appealing at a first glance, but I’d say this traditional career pathing approach is in desperate need of some updating. 


The current career path paradigm sets us up for eventual failure.  As a result, we need to re-evaluate how career pathing processes are managed in many of our organizations and professional communities.  We need to align our approach with the principles of True Growth, which are steeped in being nimble and adapting to outside conditions.  This creates a dilemma: how do we manage the need to plan with a willingness to remain flexible? 


To manage this dilemma, consider updating how we see career management, letting go of the traditional ‘career path’ lingo.  Instead, we need to think of our careers as sort of a winding road with all kinds of bumps, detours and potholes along the way.  Any one of these diversions may impact our longer term plans.  And although these diversions may require resetting our direction and the occasional trip to the repair shop, it doesn’t have to mean that we have failed. 


When I started my career, I planned on progressing to leadership roles within my Company.  Keen, I took on special projects and even participated in an MBA Program while working full time.  Shortly after completing this Program, enter my first major career diversion – maternity leave.  There’s an entire discussion that can happen around the challenges parents face in their attempts to manage a growing career while balancing a young family.  For our purposes, just think of this leave as my first detour.  Far from corporate life, the year at home kept me away from organizational changes and changed my perspective on my longer-term goals.

Unfortunately, last minute changes drive us crazy simply because they aren’t aligned with our plans and expectations.  Consequently, bumps, detours, potholes and trips to the repair shop are seen as inconveniences.  There’s an opportunity to reshape how we manage these diversions.  In the process, I’m suggesting we need to ditch the career path document too.


We knowingly set out on these career paths with a general awareness that they will change as we go. This becomes frustrating and we know that, more often than not, our plans and performance objectives for the year will change along the way.  So why bother planning at all?  The answer is pretty simple - we just plain have to, in order to follow many existing organizational practices.  But maybe there’s an opportunity here for you to challenge the status quo?


Instead of setting out on a linear path, why not plan for the winding road ahead? Let’s rethink the end game approach to career pathing. In today’s economy that dream job you’re heading towards might not exist by the time you pull in the driveway.