I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Women’s Leadership Luncheon (hosted by the Boston Chamber of Commerce). The lively conversation sparked many ideas that I've since taken back and implemented, but it also forced me to ask myself a tough question. A question that I believe every professional needs to ask themselves at one point or another. Did you choose your career or did your career choose you?

Charting Your Career Course for Success

One Executive's Long and Winding Road

The lunch was moderated by Carol Meyers, CMO of Boston based security company, Rapid7 (a company we once shared an office floor with). Kicking off the lunch, she told us about her background and relayed her own journey to professional self-awareness.

Carol shared many thoughtful insights, but one story stuck out in particular. She had been working as the Vice President of Sales at Shiva (which, by the way, wasn’t a job that she ever intended to have) when the company was in the process of being acquired by Intel. She had wanted to leave at this time, but Shiva convinced her to stay through the acquisition. In return, she was able to negotiate a great contract that allowed her to take some extended time off after the acquisition was complete. 

Once she left the company, Carol spent a few months reconnecting with her children and seriously reflecting on what she actually wanted to be doing with her career. She knew that she did not want to be a VP of Sales again and explained that she felt in the past, she had just approached her career trajectory without a clear destination in mind. Carol took jobs in companies recommended by her network of friends, and roles that other people thought she should be doing. She did not feel like she owned her career up to that point.

After five months and the generous support of coworkers she admired and enjoyed working with, Carol arrived at the decision that she wanted to be a CMO. With the help of her peers and after building lasting professional relationships that she still holds dear today, Carol went and made it happen.

After Carol finished her account and graciously answered questions from the group, it was our turn. We went around the room, and each person had the opportunity to share where they were at with their career and what progress they had made toward their 2016 goals. As I listened, I noticed a common theme. Many of the women were like Carol earlier on in her career, unsure of where they were heading or where they wanted to go professionally. Several were contemplating job role changes, company changes or leaving the workforce entirely. In their own individual ways, these women were not "owning" their careers.  

Looking Inward at Our Own Professional Development

After the luncheon I reflected on my career, wondering if I had fallen into a similar trap. Did I choose this path or was it chosen for me? I definitely fell into a career in the IT channel (and I’m thankful that happened), but I’ve been doing marketing for 10 years now, and that’s been (mostly) my choice. I believe I’m trying to “own” my career, but I’ve been opportunistic as well. I know I'd benefit from more self-assessment, but not just right now and not just during a performance evaluation. We should regularly check in on ourselves to make sure we're being fulfilled, both personally and professionally. 

What should one think about when reviewing their own career paths? Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are in need of an honest gut-check:

  • Am I passionate about what I am doing?
  • Does my personality align with my current career?
    • Have no idea? Take a free personality test and then compare that to traits that are valued in your current role!
  • Am I willing to take a pay cut or loose my title to change jobs or careers?
  • Is my skill set portable? Would I be willing to go back to school or get additional training to pursue something else?
  • Is the stress from my current job affecting my personal life? Do I ever dread going into the office?

 I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with hundreds of MSPs since I started my journey in the IT channel and one of the most inspiring qualities that is consistent across the board is their passion. Most love their business and it’s what drives them forward everyday. Of course many encounter challenges and roadblocks along the way, but the dedication and confidence they exhibit is often inspiring. I look at many of them and know that they chose their path. I would challenge all MSP business owners to reflect upon their own careers and also encourage their employees to look inward as well. You are only as good as those you surround yourself with. Making sure everyone in your organization is happy and secure in their own roles will only make your company stronger.

I recommend you check out the following posts if your corporate culture needs improvement:

So did you choose your career or did it choose you? Take the time to answer the questions above, but just remember: there are no “right” answers to these questions and only you can judge whether you're the owner of your career path or not. Good luck!