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Driving your Career

Driving your car is very similar to driving your career! Who doesn’t wish for a joyous drive? As you drive, you can choose different directions, gain various experiences, and visit beautiful landscapes. Sometimes you run into roadblocks, speed bumps, and you may even hit a dead end, but life moves on and so should your career. The key is to be able to take a U-turn at times to reflect and navigate your way through obstacles because the steering is in your hands.

When driving a car, how often do you allow the person sitting next to you or in the back seat to control your car steering? I often see confused faces when I ask this question, and the response is usually, “I don’t, it could lead to an accident”. So, why would you allow or expect the people around you to control the steering of your career when you are the driver?

Just like when you are sitting in the driver’s seat in your car, you shouldn't allow anyone else to control the steering of your career! Although you can take suggestions from others on how to best navigate your way, ultimately, you have to make the final decisions and choose the way you want to drive.

This article will show that organizational dynamics are not very different than dynamics on the roads while driving.

Beginning a drive

You start to drive your career with an excitement to visit places and gather experience, but soon you realize there are many out there wanting to gain experience as well and suddenly you start to face traffic in your career. Your drive will be more smooth if you decide to only drive on easy routes that have low traffic and even roads, but you would be missing out on a lot of exposure that could prepare you to face all possible challenges on a busy/competitive road. Thus, lack of varied experience/exposure may not be very rewarding and could even put the longevity of your career at risk.

As a new driver of career, be open to learning and stay flexible, patient, optimistic and determined. Focus on your driving skills and navigation. Just as traffic signals and laws are to ensure your safety, obey the legalities of your career.

You will witness unengaged/inebriated drivers on the career road like unengaged employees who trigger accidents because they do not know the direction they want to head or lack the proper skills. Beware of such drivers and colleagues as their frivolous actions are unpredictable and dangerous.

It is critical to build your confidence by having a clear goal and destination in mind, whether it be on the road or for your career. Keep learning, stay diligent, and develop your own convictions to be able to lead yourself. Remember, honesty means telling the truth to others and integrity means telling the truth to yourself. Your values will shape your integrity.

Identify role models to learn from but do not fall into the trap of sycophancy. It is like blindly following a large truck on the road until you realize you have not only lost the way but are stuck between that vehicle and a bulldozer. You run the risk of being crushed anytime with no outlet to escape if you don't learn to drive your own path.

During the drive

You will come across speed bumps in your career, but trust that those help you avoid accidents by increasing control over your unwanted speed and making you pause a bit to reflect on your actions so far. These bumps can help you to plan a better drive by changing gears and learning new skills which are important to stay balanced and safe.

You will come across confused drivers who will slow down your performance like disengaged employees. Avoid them as they could push you into a comfort zone or distract you, making you lose sight of a turn that is important to your career drive.

Sometimes you have to pick up and drop off people on your journey and in doing so, you will build relationships and credibility. Be careful of who rides with you while you drive! A mentor with knowledge of the route can guide you and may help you to find new directions and short-cuts. On the other hand, sometimes you may have a manager/colleague hitchhike with you for a few miles to meet their own goals.

Identify, keep and nurture true relationships, cherish their presence in your life. If you meet someone that is clearly not aligned with your principles and value system, just ignore them and drive on! Your emotional health is your magic potion to all your challenges and only true relationships will enrich this potion. Remember that self-introspection must be a part of your system. Driving your car all alone once in a while allows you to reflect on your journey without any external influence or bias.

If you find yourself on a drive that doesn't provide you with varied experiences and learning, you may have to change routes by finding another company to work for. Both you and your organization must enrich each other’s “emotional-ecosystem” by actively seeking to improve and grow together. The alternative is choosing to drive in the comfort zone and accept the monotony of career drive.

Get your car serviced regularly by being a lifelong student who stays agile by learning and improving on your skills. Meet the right mentors/coaches and build a strong network for longer mileage that would help you deal effectively with the trying times of your drive/career.

Honking on the road for every little reason only serves to make people stop listening to you. Pick your battles by honking or speaking up on subjects that are worth your time. On the highway of life, don't be constantly looking in the rearview! Look forward to driving to places that bring your life joy and satisfaction by choosing the right paths.

The Road to Success

You will hit many different milestones on your career journey and each milestone will have a lesson to learn. You may run into slow drivers, bad drivers, or drivers who rub against your car and push you off track. If you end up getting distracted by such annoying drivers, you lose your ability to navigate well the road and your career as well. Stay determined and celebrate small successes, but define stretch goals till you are set to embark on an accomplished route to be accepted as a Coach or Mentor.

Developing proper driving behaviors will require you to have enough patience and the ability to endure, but in the end, it is all worth it! On your journey, you are shaping and influencing personalities of those around you as well. At the end of your career, you may have people looking to you for driving tips and advice from your career journey. It is natural for you to attract attention while driving a classy car/having a fancy title but remember that it's the person behind the wheel that is important.

Respect cannot be demanded, eventually, you will realize the only journey that matters is the one within! Who you become at the end of your journey determines the true success of the drive. Regardless of whether you drive a CAR or your CAREER, I wish you a joyous and gratifying driving experience for both!


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