Union Views: A career is like orienteering

A career is like orienteering – in order to reach your goal you need to know your bearings.

As an army grunt I became acquainted with orienteering. It’s not my favourite sport. The combination of decent stamina and inept map skills resulted in me running fast – in the wrong direction.

A career is similar. It is no advantage to be on the fast-track if you do not know where you are headed. In order to stay on course, I annually ask myself these four questions.

When do you excel?
Imagine your experience and skills as a toolbox. You master each and every tool, but can you describe them to other people? Consider tasks you have faced successfully and use these to articulate your strengths.

What are you aiming for?
What is important for you in your work? Which tasks give you energy and bring out your best you? Imagine a morning three months from now. You wake up expectantly and cannot wait to go to work. What has changed?

Where is the demand?
Having determined your skills and what motivates you, the next step is to identify who has a need for what you can do, and for you will do. Know and clearly communicate the value you create.

How do you reach your goal?
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” No matter how skilled and competent you are, do not wait for opportunities to drop from the sky. It requires focused work to reach your goals.

Is there a demand for what you do in your current organisation, or do you need to move on? Make a plan and share it with your network. They might present options you had not considered.

You do not necessarily need to change your job to get a turnaround. Maybe there is unexplored potential in your current position. Or look closely at the opportunities within your organisation – a renewed job could be closer than you think.

Either way, my learning from orienteering still applies. Just make sure you face the right direction before you start running.


Steen Vive