Career Paths Are Not Linear

As a 3-year-old what they “want to be when they grow up” and they immediately shout out “Astronaut!” or “Ballerina!” or “Fireman!”  These occupations usually include recognizable costumes, books, an animated TV show, and action figures.

Very few of us grow up to become what we wanted to be at such a young age.  We are influenced by friends, family, peers, educators, and managers we encounter throughout our formative years.  There can be external pressure applied throughout the process.  Parents focus on their son or daughter graduating with a job.  Students feel pressure to get out into the “real world.”  Higher Education collects, analyzes, and scrutinizes “first destination” data.

Careers are definitely not straight lines drawn from college graduation to retirement.  

What if you worked tirelessly toward a career with the full knowledge that it would only last a few years?  Last week, I was fortunate enough to meet two extremely humble, hard-working, and honest people.  These athletes had success at the highest level of their sports and now have moved on to more “traditional” jobs.

John Standeford (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Standeford) and Zach McClellan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zach_McClellan) visited the Michigan Tech campus to share the story of their life journey.  John (NFL) and Zach (MLB) spent years on buses, in the weight room, being cut/traded, and sacrificing portions of their bodies and lives to pursue a dream.  They knew full well the dream was difficult to achieve and would have a short duration.

To me, these are the most important things they shared with us:

  • Be Coachable – There are many people along the way that will give you suggestions for improvements.  You must be able to listen to them and incorporate their feedback into your actions.  You may not always agree, but they have your best interests in mind.
  • Attention To Detail – Why does it matter if your jersey is tucked in?  Because every detail matters and being sloppy on lots of small details can result in bigger problems later.
  • Honor your commitments – You are only as good as your reputation or your word.  It is your responsibility to give maximum effort every single play, every single day, and throughout your career.
  • Be Present – Showing up is the easy part.  If the day is long or starts early, be alert, focused and dedicated on the task at hand.

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