On Professional Development

When you’re developing your professional self, you make the effort to attend networking events. When you attend these events other attendees tend to ask you about the plans for your future. To their questions, you often respond with a general structure that outlines where you see yourself in five, ten, fifteen or whatever number of years. You’re content with this answer; so is the person who asked the question. But, why? Why is this an acceptable answer? Generally, to answer like this implies that you’ve expended energy and effort planning for the future…that’s not really true though, is it?  You only identified a dream–an aspiration, an end. “I want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company” — Great! So, why not tell me how you’ll get there. Tell me the steps you’ll need to take to get to a point like that, if not comparable to that. Do you intend to live life the same way as you are now? Do you plan on making any adjustments? Most people can’t provide this information, and rightfully so. It’s difficult to know each and every step that you’ll need to take to reach your professional goals or each experience you must encounter. When you think about it, though, it kind of makes sense that the means to the goal are rarely discussed. The unknown is difficult to discuss. After all, it’s unknown. But, why does it being unknown preclude us from discussing it or thinking about it? And, what causes us to focus primarily on the outcome and not the process? Is it fear? Is it difficulty thinking in the abstract? Do people not have the time? When I meet someone and ask them about their future goals, the first thing I want to know is how he/she will reach those goals. Honestly, who cares about what you want to do? What you want to do matters very little if you don’t know, or at least try to know, what you need to do to get there.

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