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Careers Café

More forks in the road


Careers Café has recently had a fork-in-the-road theme, so – what the heck – I’m adding another fork and a personal post.

I recently had to ask myself the sorts of questions that I prefer asking clients: about what matters to me, what my definition of success is, how I’ll find meaning in work, and how I’ll shape my working life so that it allows me to make the impacts I want to make in other areas of my life. Nothing like a good health scare to prompt the bigger questions.

In the interim, life and my health have worked out very nicely. While I’m slowly transitioning out of a job I love, I’ve started another job I love – one that doesn’t involve a commute, does involve lots of direct work with clients, and lets me be a more involved parent.

Since there were a good seven months between the phone call from my GP and the happy resolution, I’ve had a fair bit of time to bite my fingernails into nubs remind myself of some common career issues:

  • Success: it’s a set of moving and moveable targets, not a goalpost anchored in concrete. For a time, for me, it was viable to think about career success as something discrete. I could move up the ladder, learn from a fantastic manager who’s more mentor than boss, and view my career as its own entity, separate from the rest of my life. The prospect of ill health reminded me that all the roles we play impact one another. Sometimes, achieving success in one role requires us to rethink – or even set aside – what counts as success in another.
  • Status: it felt great to be promoted, partly because of the work I got to do, and partly because it was recognized as success by others. If you’re downwardly mobile, it sure helps to have a clear idea about how the move lets you live out values that are dear to you, because you may encounter a few raised eyebrows along the way. (Happily for me, the well of parental guilt runs deep, and coworkers felt my pain in wanting to spend more time with my daughter before she develops an allergy to parents.)
  • We’re multi-potentialed: there is no “it” out there – there’s a whole bunch of things we can do, though it can take lots of effort and time to find them.

I’m looking forward to continuing to explore these topics with clients, in my own life and, of course, in Careers Café.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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