career time travelerYou might be asked to articulate your career journey when seeking a new job or you may be exploring a new direction. It can be difficult picking out the significant and relevant moments, whether you have been employed in many jobs or only a few. You may feel positive or negative or have no strong feelings about these touch points in your working life. How do you make sense of your career to help you move forward?

I was struck recently by a passage in Soren Kaplan’s excellent book, Leapfrogging – Harness the Power of Surprise For Business Breakthroughs: 

“Our aggregate experiences add up to where we are, here and now. The goal is to merge the ‘past and the present’ with the ‘present and future’ – to understand that everything we do builds upon the past but nothing is constrained by the past.”

Kaplan talks about how the synergies between seemingly disparate events can be surprising. He quotes Steve Jobs who observed that you can’t connect the dots going forward, only by looking backwards, so you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future. You can’t predict the future, but you can help create the future that you want through the choices you make and the mindset you adopt.

“The trouble is you think you have time” – Buddha

People have different preferences in how they view time. Each can be a driver or a constraint depending on whether you have a fixed or growth mindset (see the work of Carol Dweck).

Some of us live in the present and prefer not to look back – what’s important to us is how we feel now and meeting our current needs.

Others filter the present through the past – drawing upon successes and achievements to recreate your sense of pride and as a reminder of your abilities to build confidence.

And some are more future-focused – visualising success and ‘getting in the zone’ like athletes focused on winning the race.

Be a time traveller and visit past, present and future to test out your preferences. You will gain different perspectives on how you see your career to keep or discard as appropriate. Ask yourself, or talk through with a friend, mentor or coach:

  • What connections can I make from my past that helps inform my present and future career? What helpful insights from experience have I gained? What do I now reinterpret or feel comfortable with?
  • What present do I want to write so it doesn’t become a regretful past? What do I want to retain today and take with me?
  • What fulfilling future can I see in my mind’s eye? How do I want to feel? What future do I want to create?

Back to the future? You decide.

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