The life of Mae Jemison is a lesson in constant experimentation until one’s dream is realised. Mae, the first African American woman to travel into space, dabbled in several career exploits starting off by obtaining a degree as a chemical engineer.
Eventually after a few applications she was selected out of roughly 2,000 candidates to join a NASA programme and eventually her dream came true.
Making career choices can be daunting and confusing. Today’s corporate environment makes for even more confusion with technology reeling off new career options every day. New entrants into the workforce are faced with far more options than those a few years ago were, and although on the surface of it this should make it easier to make choices, in reality it is the opposite.
It is not uncommon for one to pursue one career direction only to stop and change course mid-way. Grounding oneself in a particular direction at an early stage has therefore become less common. So, the big question is; How does one decide on what path to take, and once the decision is made how do they go about achieving their dreams?
Most life coaches will tell you the best career choice is simply that which aligns with your passion and interests. While that is true, is passion alone enough to drive such a big decision? Surely there must be other elements that need to align with passion to arrive at the best decision.
For example, being passionate about something and having the inherent ability to carry it out successfully are very different things. I am passionate about golf but if I decided to make a career out of it I suspect I would be a really frustrated individual because I simply don’t have the natural skill required to become a top professional golfer despite my passion for it.
The next big fact one must consider is purpose and value system. You need to think deeply about the long-term outcome you desire out of the career choice you make that is not in conflict with your inherent beliefs.
Purpose is the only reason you will still wake up with a smile 20 years on to do your thing with the same drive and passion that you had at the start because of the sense of accomplishment that you still derive from it. Values on the other hand are your North guiding star, your personal red line in the sand across which you shall not venture and still keep your conscience. Without purpose and values nothing else matters.
Closely aligned to purpose is legacy. What would you like to be remembered for? Is there an inherited legacy that you would like to carry on or are you on a path to build your own? Legacy is built over a sustained period, so whether you are carrying on an already established one or starting on a new path to build one it is crucial that the journey start as early in the career journey as possible, and this is not to say that a late start is not possible or has never been achieved.
Once passion, inherent ability, purpose, values and legacy have been established, one needs to apply a healthy dose of reality with respect to available career options in their environment.
The writer is MD at Kenya Breweries Ltd