The information age has been a double-edged sword for many young professionals trying to make progress in their careers.
We have instant access to a wealth of knowledge via the internet. It’s easier than ever to learn what you need to move up to another level.
Yet that same advantage can be harnessed by everybody else. And job openings now draw from a vast pool of applicants. For all but those requiring the most stringent of qualifications, the competition is incredibly tough.
Thus, the problem facing most job-seekers today is that their development is stunted or scattershot. Taking you career in the direction you want is difficult, even if you work hard and have an impressive resume.
How do you respond to the complex challenge of finding your way in this competitive world of work?
You’re not a business
It’s not that building a solid CV to demonstrate your skill set and experience no longer works. It just comprises an increasingly small piece of the puzzle. Employers can sometimes inflate the qualifications, or more often look beyond that, questioning what you really bring to the table.
When a developer sells a plot of land, they can offer it as is, build a house, or even furnish it completely. This gives prospective buyers a range of options. They can go with the budget-friendly, customizable route or pay a higher price for the added value that goes into the finished product.
Businesses operate this way to target different segments of a market. But a business can choose to add as little or as much value as it chooses, as long as it stands to profit.
Employees can’t do that, yet they are effectively being forced by the pressure of competition to add more and more value to their employers. Fail to do so, and you lose out on the most desirable positions, settling for jobs that pay less and don’t maximize your potential.
Developments in technology will only continue to drive rapid change in the workplace. The gulf between what your resume says you can do and what you really can offer threatens to grow unless you can somehow weave through this complexity.
A matter of navigation
This challenge can be likened to what a ship’s navigator might have faced in medieval times.
Navigators in those days didn’t have access to precise modern instruments. Their maps were incomplete, with areas left blank or filled in roughly with guesswork afnd imagination. No one had a complete picture of the world.
Storms could blow you off course. So could miscalculations, compounded over long distances with no land in sight.
The safest voyages plied known routes, stuck close to the coastline or recognizable landmarks, and didn’t bother to explore unfamiliar seas.
For those who dared, the potential rewards of charting a new course were greater. New lands meant new resources, and their legacy could contribute to increased knowledge of the world beyond.
To do so, a navigator would need not only maps but the positions of the stars. They could learn to observe the behavior of birds and read the nature of waves. The water would always be shifting around them, and winds could blow differently, but they would remain oriented.
No plain sailing
Like the navigators of old, today’s employees need to realize that the world of work is as chaotic, turbulent, and uncharted as medieval waters.
There are no blueprints to get to your destination. Attempt to follow someone else’s strategy, and you’ll probably end up in a job that underserves your potential. You’ll be doing work that isn’t rewarding, either financially or in terms of purpose and fulfillment.
Navigators constantly wrote down their observations in a logbook. Doing so gave them a reference point amid the vast expanse of blue. Those notes helped them to track daily progress and direction, no matter how small.
No matter how haphazard your career journey has been to this point, reflect upon it. Events that might have seemed like setbacks or sidesteps at the time might have proven essential in retrospect to getting where you are now.
Maintain a journal of your own. This helps you to make sense of your developmental arc and start writing your own career narrative moving forward.
Accept the fact that the career landscape is constantly shifting. You can’t control that any more than you can make the waves do your bidding. Each decision you make might cost dozens of other opportunities.
But you can always take ownership over how you respond. Be agile in the face of change. Don’t beat yourself up about missing out on a straightforward path because you aren’t valuable enough right now, in the estimation of others.
What matters is that you keep making incremental progress and remain unfaltering on course to your goal.