Sailing the Career Ship

Not long ago I did a career presentation to Senior Management. Preparing for the presentation, part of a talent programme, I became astonished. I realised that in almost a decade with the company I have not been able to predict one single career move. Actually, at no moment of my entire career I have been able to foresee where I was going 2 months in advance of any job change.

This is a radical finding for someone who built his career on the ability to predict the future. Having spent years predicting behaviours of customers and competitors I should be able to predict my own career. Well, apparently not. Even though I have had lots of plans and even though I have put considerable energy into realising them reality always ended up being quite different than I had anticipated. Mostly better. While I have certainly had bumps on the road most of my career has been fun and exciting.

So what happened? Well, career plans are strategies. And while it is always good to have a solid strategy not all goes as planned in execution. When this happens we of course need to ask ourselves whether we really prioritised our resources according to the intended strategy or whether there is something else at play. A certain level of bifocal vision is required. Staying on strategy but at the same time asking oneself “What is trying to emerge?”


Human beings are story tellers. Most of us would rather believe in a good story than grey figures on a sheet of paper. Looking back at our past it all makes sense. It becomes a story. As Kierkegaard famously said. “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Moving forward in our careers can feel like navigating a boat. You cannot control the sea and you cannot control your career. What you can do is to optimise your chances of safe passage and learn to be lucky…

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