Why an intentional career wins every time

JULIE CHASE | MARCH 19, 2019

I recently played Chutes and Ladders with my adorable 5 year old nephew. At first, I was worried of winning every game, but the worries quickly dissolved as he proceeded to kick my butt.

As I slid down a chute, I thought about how this game is parallel to a career path. There are some moves that elevated our careers by giving us the opportunity to gain new experiences and skills, while others were underwhelming or even scarring.

At a high level, there are two types of career paths: organic and intentional. It’s not binary as it can pivot from one to the other. For most of us, our career has been mostly organic. An organic career path is when an opportunity presents itself to you and you take it. It can be a promotion at work, a new role presented by a recruiter or a former colleague asking you to interview for a position.

These opportunities are fruits of your labor—and you should feel proud. You have built a solid professional brand and have earned a reputation for being an expert in your role, a leader, a collaborator and a person who gets things done.

Of course, some of the organic opportunities are for the best and are strategic. But here’s where it gets tricky. If you pursue these opportunities without laying the foundation, you increase the risk of taking a role that you won’t love, where you won’t grow and that won’t help you get what you really want next.

Many of our clients have stories of how they accepted a mediocre position because it “fell into their lap,” and they chose to believe it was meant to be. Even if the compensation and title was higher than their previous role, they look back and understand why they shouldn’t have taken it. It becomes a bigger issue when it sets a chain reaction that puts them on a career course that they really aren’t passionate about.

The good news is that it is never too late to create an intentional career. Here are a few steps that can shift your career:

1. Determine your north star

If you know the exact role you ultimately want to do, then that’s your north star. Write down all the reasons why and rank them by importance. If you don’t have a title in mind, then write an overall intention such as I want to constantly learn and grow, I want to become an expert in X, I want to love what I do, etc.

2. List the criteria that’s important to a role and company

For role consider things like the main responsibilities, scope of role (do you prefer niche v. generalist), global v. domestic, and people manager v. individual contributor; for company consider things like size, maturity, growth rate, pace, product, and core values.

3. Draw insights

Once you’ve determined your north star and the most important criteria, then you can evaluate past roles to see if they were aligned. This introspective exercise will be revealing. You’ll understand your past motivations and how you and your values have evolved throughout your career.

These steps help you create alignment with your goals, values and actions. You are in a perfect position to proactively look for an ideal role and company. And you can better evaluate organic opportunities with the foundation you set.

Whether you have 10, 15 or 20 years left in your career, you can create an intentional career filled with meaningful roles at great companies.

If you’d like strategize on how to create an intentional career and/or make a career move—then schedule time to talk with us.

Watch our video, answer a short survey and then select a meeting time. We’d love to help you find a job that you love every day!