Disengaging the career autopilot


“I’ve got a job interview tomorrow!” Sarah looked excited as she whispered this juicy bit of news to Philip, her colleague of three years, as they waited at the counter for their morning coffees. “But don’t tell anyone!” She put her finger to her lips to make her point.

“Don’t worry” he assured her, “your secret is safe with me. But I have to admit that I am a bit shocked, you haven’t said anything about looking for other jobs. What’s happened? When did you decide to do that?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about my job situation for a while now. To be honest, it started with me not getting that promotion I was hoping for last month. It really made me stop and think, you know, if I’m doing the right thing and all of that.”

“Come on, what kind of a vague comment is that! What do you mean?”

“Come on. I’ll explain on the way.”

With steaming paper cups in hand, they made their way down the road towards the office. Sarah turned to Philip and continued:

“So what I meant is that I’ve come to realize I have never really made any proper choices when it comes to my career. If I’m brutally honest, I seem to have drifted into jobs, driven by circumstances more than anything else. And I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, but lately I’ve come to question whether I’ve been too lazy about it, in just drifting I mean. That’s why I sat down and started thinking about what I’m good at and what I enjoy doing and what I would do if anything was possible. You see, part of me went for that promotion because I was expected to. I’m not even sure exactly who expected me to go for it, but it felt like what I was supposed to do, in order to show my ambition…. Does that make any sense, do you know what I mean?”

Philip’s forehead produced a number of lines across it as he considered his answer.

“Yeees”, he said with some hesitation, “I think I do. There seems to be a certain path to follow if you want to progress in our business unit, and the leadership roles that come up are pretty much the only way to go.“

“Exactly! But nothing is given, we always have a choice and that’s what I’ve decided to do something about. When I finally thought about it, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to become leader of a team. And this has made me decide that I want to be in the driver’s seat of my own career from now on.” Sarah gave a determined nod. They had reached the office and Sarah lowered her voice and said: “I’ll tell you more later. Wish me luck for tomorrow!”

When she exited the lift on her floor, she raised a hand in goodbye and headed down the corridor to her office.

What she hadn’t told Philip was that the job she had applied for was within their company. She had found out that a new project was being kicked off, with a focus on sustainable business practices, and this was something that interested her a lot. Their company, as so many in the manufacturing industry, had more and more pressure on it to consider responsible use of natural resources as well as considering the people impacted by the business practices.

The subject got Sarah all fired up, she could feel the energy surge through her body as she thought about what the job might entail and how she would be able to contribute to something that really mattered to her in a way that she hadn’t previously focused on. If she got it, that was!

Either way, this was the time to make choices and take control of her career – and it felt good.

teamformula-authorsAbout the Authors:

Mandy and Elisabet started their collaboration when they both held senior leadership positions at American Express’ European head office in Brighton and have gone on to run their own successful international businesses in the UK and Sweden since 2000-2001. They have coached and developed executives and teams all over the world in leading global organizations as well as smaller, local companies and associations.

Buy a copy of ‘The Team Formula‘ – A leadership tale of a team who found their way.


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