At any given point in our professional lives there is a good chance we will stand before our future and ask, “Where will I be tomorrow?”
All of us inherently want to be successful. We want to move beyond the stepping stones of going from job to job and arrive at a position we love, enjoy and are passionate about day in and day out.
Ultimately, we want a career. When the path we want to follow reveals itself, the question of uncertainty becomes a lot more deliberate and definitive. The backward approach begs the question, “Where do I want to be tomorrow.”
I say “backward approach” because it seems career advancement often is placed on the likes of hope, chance and even expectation. People expect to get from A to Z without having to go through the loops, trials and experiences that are necessary. They wing it, which might be fun when you are still trying to decide what you want to do. Once you have found your career though, (remember that path you want to follow?) doesn’t it make sense to be a little more careful with how you navigate it?
Now you might say, “What if things change?” You always have dreamed of owning your own business or becoming a GM, but what if life’s unexpected circumstances hold you back or make you change direction?
Those questions remind me of this quote from John Q. Hammons: “Set your goals in rock, and make your path to get there in sand.” We should never lose focus of where we want our careers to take us; they should stay as solid as a rock. However, we need to understand that how we get there might end up looking different from how we originally mapped it out.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching the London Olympics this month. There are always a lot of stories to follow, but one that stood out was that of Jordyn Wieber. Here is a young woman who won the gymnastics world championships last year and was expected to win the women’s all-around gold medal this year. It was her dream to win gold, and she had the capabilities to make it happen.
But her path did not reveal itself as expected. Wieber did not qualify for the all-around finals, with teammate Aly Raisman posting a higher score and taking the position instead. While the loss of this opportunity was painful, Wieber came back and helped the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win its first gold medal since 1996. She got the gold she dreamed of even though it wasn’t in the way she originally planned.
I’m explaining this to leave you with a few thoughts I think will be helpful as you walk your own career path:
Begin with the end in mind
Many people have said this line over the years, but I think it bears repeating. Remember the backward approach question: “Where do I want to be tomorrow?” One of the best examples of this is a story about Conrad Hilton. Every day Conrad looked at a picture of a nearby hotel that he dreamed of one day owning under the Hilton umbrella. On the picture he wrote the words, “The greatest of them all.” The hotel, of course, was the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Years later, Conrad finally got the Waldorf, and it’s still part of the Hilton portfolio to this day.
What would it look like if you were exactly where you wanted to be in your career?
Have a coach or a mentor
Again, after watching a lot of the Olympics this month, a common thread I’ve seen is the appreciation and respect Olympians have for their coaches. They often say they wouldn’t be where they are today without them. Take Michael Phelps, for example. To help Michael get ready for his races, his coach Bob Bowman put him through stressful and difficult circumstances, such as picking Michael up late, filling his goggles with water and so forth. Amazingly, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics during one of Michael’s final races, his goggles filled with water and yet his training helped him endure and win the gold medal. Michael’s coach helped him prepare for the unexpected.
Who is walking with you? Are they encouraging you, motivating you and challenging you to be the best you can be?
You can never sit down and become complacent if you want to reach your goals. In other words, staying stationary in a comfortable position won’t get you anywhere. As one speaker I recently heard said, “You have to scare yourself.” You have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone if you truly want to advance your career. You have to stay hungry for new opportunities that will bring you closer toward your goal.
Mark Williams is Director of Development for Coakley & Williams, one of the nation’s top third-party hotel management companies. In 2006, Mark received his B.S. degree in Hospitality from University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He also received his MBA from Grand Canyon University’s Ken Blanchard School of Business in 2011. Currently, Mark serves as Chair for the American Hotel & Lodging Associations’ Under 30 Gateway. He can be reached by phone at 301-614-8848 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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