Monday, October 18, 2010

Your Career: A Day at the Beach

On a rainy day in Southern California (yes, they sometimes do happen), I reminisce about the several beach days I had recently over the summer.  In this reverie, I thought of an analogy to career development that would make sense to anyone who has been to a crowded beach on a hot summer day.  When you arrive at the beach on such a day, how do you pick your spot on the sand?  For me, I am grateful to land on any spot—though I try not to get too close to others, and I prefer to be within sight of the ocean.  Under these conditions, do I wind up exactly where I want to?  Rarely.  But I certainly do not want to walk all over the beach waiting to find such a spot either.  It is much nicer on those fortunate days where it is not so crowded. 

But then there are times when even under the most crowded conditions, I find the ultimate spot in the sand:  a great spot, right near the ocean, where the air is chilled to that moderate temperature that facilitates relaxation.  But even in these circumstances, I might become subject to changing tides.  Have you ever found yourself as such, perfectly situated on the beach when over the hours, the rising tide creeps toward your towels or blanket and suddenly your optimal spot is in jeopardy of being submerged.  A large wave can come from nowhere and make this happen in an unexpected second to one who has drifted into a sun-induced slumber or meditative state.

Think about the correlations here with career experience.  In a competitive and crowded job market, people are also compelled to grab the most immediate job offers that they can land—sometimes less than ideal.  Opportunities that you prefer might not be available.  In a job search, circumstance might not allow us to go for what is ideal, try as we might. 

Additionally, even when we are fortunate enough to find a great job or spot, the landscape is constantly changing.  Optimal for a time, but if we get too comfortable and we are not wary of the implications of these changes, we can find ourselves in a most uncomfortable situation.

My current work allows me to assist many who have been displaced from jobs that they have successfully held for years.  The new economy has been particularly brutal on some, and it is sobering to see individuals accustomed to making six figures participating in a program that compels them to at least consider jobs that pay minimum wage.   I see the greatest potential for success for those who are open to any possibility within their range, and who are also willing to move away from positions that while once were favorable, are now metaphorically submerged.  The winning attitude also contains a sense of gratitude.  Even if we have to settle into a less than ideal spot, or if our once enviable spot is taken; to have a day on the beach, to have that opportunity, is something truly to be grateful.  And thus, I cannot wait until the weather again gives me another shot to hit the sand.