How I constructed my career path
If you have read my previous article series — Why Can’t I Pick A Career? — you will be familiar with my philosophy around building your career.
Heavily influenced by Cal Newport, Matthew McConaughey, Ray Dalio, and Brian Johnson, I believe the philosophy and approach you apply to your work are more important than picking the right career or waiting for the right career to find you.
It is by adopting a philosophy of putting your focus on building career capital that you are likely to encounter more green lights along the way to achieving your mission of having happiness in your working life.
Focussing on a clear goal at each step of your career path allows you to achieve a ‘mistake learners high’ and by breaking down your goals rather than a moonshot for your ultimate career mission you enter a feedback loop of rapid learning.
Focussing on becoming the best version of ourselves in the pursuit of something bigger than ourselves is the ultimate game we can play.
From the feedback received in my previous post, it seems that the most difficult challenge people are facing is getting started.
“I’m just about to leave school and don’t know if I should go to college and get a degree or go work for my dad in his garage. What should I do?”
“I’m 25 years into a career that I hate. I really want to start a new career but don’t know what to do?”
“I’d really like to work in nuclear, but I can’t afford to enter full-time education to gain the relevant qualifications.”
The above or some of the questions I have been asked by people.
Now, I don’t have the career capital to be able to provide career advice to these specific individuals. All I can, or am willing to do, is provide them with my view of how they can apply a philosophy to their career pathing.
Below, I will discuss my current scenario, how I have gone about my career pathing and how I plan to navigate through my working life. I believe the philosophy is universal and hopefully, you are able to apply the principles to your own life.
My current career path has me following two paths in parallel. I have one that I consider to be my profession or day job. And the other that I think of as my side project or entrepreneurial endeavour.
Career Path #1 — The CEO
I am a project manager in the nuclear industry by trade. I have a clear mission to be the CEO of a significant nuclear employer before I reach the age of 50.
I identified my mission by identifying my ikigai in respect of:
- what I have (career capital) skills, qualifications, experience, knowledge in — project management,
- what I enjoy — building and leading teams,
- what the world needs — new, clean energy, and
- what I can be paid for — CEO.
There are many careers that interest me; I would also love to be an airline pilot. If I considered my ikigai for this career, even though I’m sure I would enjoy the career, the world needs pilots and the pay is pretty good, I do not have any career capital whatsoever in this arena.
If I was younger with fewer responsibilities, I could look at building career capital around the rare and valuable skills associated with becoming a pilot, but at my stage in my life, I am better to work toward becoming a practitioner of using the career capital I have built to date.
Therefore, my career pathing exercise resulted in the following goals:
- Continue to build career capital as a nuclear project manager by continuing my current role and in parallel gaining my Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) accreditation.
- Once I have my ChPP, I will look to find a role on a significant nuclear project, working my way up to Project/Operations Director and building career capital in the form of major project experience for 5–10 years.
- As a Project/Operations Director, I will further build career capital by completing any qualifications and courses relevant to becoming a CEO of an organisation.
- At the age of 50, in ten years’ time, I will work as CEO of a major nuclear employer (potentially my own company). I will spend my time up until retirement in this role, supporting and monitoring the next generation of workers in the nuclear industry.
Career Path #2 — The Business Owner
My second career, from a career pathing perspective, is as the founder of the website getintonuclear.com and any commercial endeavour I can build around the site.
In my last article on the matter I finished with the below statement:
“I do want to make Get Into Nuclear a success as I genuinely feel that it has a place in supporting the industry. However, based on what we have learned in this series, I cannot act on this feeling alone, I need to focus on finding what the nuclear industry needs help with.
I plan to do this by taking a step back and seeking to find rare and valuable skills that the industry would be willing to pay for. Again, this is not necessarily about the money, but as a validation that the skills are rare and valuable enough for me to invest time in.
This will give me what I need to work on upskilling, networking and marketing using baby steps, rather than giant leaps, to seek market validation of value.”
Since I wrote the above, I have continued to speak to individuals and employers in the nuclear industry as part of my daily interactions. What has been a little different is that I have been more intentional in trying to find out the challenges being faced by the industry, and what help they are looking for — and are willing to pay for.
Surprisingly quickly, a common theme emerged. Something that I have previously identified as a good idea, acted upon when being led by passion but quickly gave up on when I found it difficult to build traction.
This time around, I will be focussing on what career capital I can build to ensure that I provide something rare and valuable enough that the industry is willing to pay for.
The opportunity that has appeared from my adjacent possible is to utilise the audience and trusted brand built by Get Into Nuclear to provide a jobs board to support the whole of the nuclear industry.
“Can you give me a list of job boards where I can find nuclear jobs?”
“It would be good if I could find all nuclear jobs in one place.”
“We spend thousands advertising jobs across multiple websites.”
“I have friends who have made a great success of a niche jobs board.”
The above are some of the comments that have given me the green light to take the punt with the jobs board. I appreciate that I may have jumped in a little quickly, acting with some passion. However, I have a clear goal over the next 3 months to validate that the jobs.getintonuclear.com jobs board is rare and valuable enough to the nuclear industry.
As for my capability, I have spent the last 5 years learning how to build websites and I have used a website template (jobboard.io) to create the site. I have been involved in sales & marketing for most of my career but this is something that I need to work on.
Therefore, my deliberate practice for this element of my working life will be around improving my ability to promote and sell my jobs board.
Hopefully, you can clearly see from the above that I follow a loop of:
Build Career Capital > Use Career Capital to find new role > Identify required Career Capital for next role > Build Career Capital > Use Career Capital to find new role > Identify required Career Capital for next role…
- Build career capital by employing deliberate practice to develop rare and valuable skills.
- Use this career capital to land a promotion, start a new job or provide a new service offering as part of your business.
- As you become a practitioner in your chosen field, identify the opportunities available in the adjacent possible.
- Chose the next opportunity to pursue ensuring it provides you with control, competence and meaning.
- Identify the rare and valuable skills needed to become a practitioner in your new identified opportunity.
- Return to step one, and repeat.
To answer the questions at the start of this article, which are basically ‘where do I start?’ My response is that I believe everybody is somewhere on the career pathing cycle.
As you are asking the question, I would expect that you will start at #1 and start by becoming a practitioner at whatever it is that you currently do.
As you work on this, you can start to identify the next opportunities you would like to pursue and identify where you need to build further career capital.
Think of it as similar to powering up on a computer game. You start small and weak with limited equipment, you then power up gradually, level by level until you are strong enough and have the best equipment to take on the biggest challenge of the game.
If you jumped straight to the end you would not be able to win — and it would not be any fun.