Career Stages

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Your career path will probably not be a smooth arc, but more likely a somewhat unpredictable series of events punctuated by moments of decision. Adaptability is a good quality to develop since change is constant. You can start by being mindful of the career stages that you are likely to go through. Whatever knowledge you have, the day will come when you'll need to bend in the current to overcome obstacles.

Knowing what to expect from a career can save you from disappointment. Early on you will be expected to learn the ins and outs of your organization and its culture. It is often expected that you are supposed to work hard to earn respect.

Getting Started

The first stage in your career is the transition from school to work. The nature of the transition will depend on your previous work experience (summer jobs, co-ops, internships), what you learn from your mentors and network, and the organizational culture you join. Some companies provide a training program to facilitate this transition.

Experimentation and risk are essential elements of an active career; they add excitement. But they also mean occasional setbacks. The challenge is to look at events that have turned differently than planned and to learn from them. Setbacks may not be enjoyable, but you can use these inevitable short-term occurances to gain valuable insight and turnthem into long-term gains.


Not only is change constant, it's good. You would never get anywhere without change. Most change is slow and incremental. It's always important to stay flexible by cultivating a range of interests and skills so that you can adapt to the unforeseen. Security comes not from a "permanent" job, but from knowing how to benefit from change.

Forces of change:

  • Technology - Increasing speed and complexity of information and communication technology; emergence of biotechnology, nanotechnology, etc.
  • Economics - Increased competition, cost consciousness in all economic sectors
  • Politics - Globalization, industrialization of countries around the world
  • Culture and Society - Restructuring the concept of work; shifting gender roles
  • Environment - Conservation and preservation of natural habitats; dwindling natural resources

Careers rarely unfold in an orderly progression of one success after another. Part of being adaptable is being able to bend without breaking. Disappointments, even failures are inevitable; they provide the most intense learning experiences. Adaptability means altering your expectations and desires to fit reality.

Having A Life

A career demands time and sacrifice even as it offers rewards and satisfaction. Learning how to keep a balance between work and home is a survival skill everyone needs to learn. Having a life can be the key to professional as well as personal success. Tunnel vision is one of the dangers which you may face if you let things get too far out of balance.

Cultivating interests outside of your career usually helps you both at home and at work - employers actually prefer workers who are well-rounded and socially adjusted. For those trying to acheive early success, however, some sacrifice may be necessary. Sometimes for some people, putting life on hold for a period of time is OK if that is the price to be paid for reaching a career goal. The point is you should be aware of your priorities. Make reasonable compromises. Remember that having a successful career is only one part of having a successful life.

Tunnel vision is one symptom of losing your balance between work and life outside of it. It can prevent you from acknowledging contradictory data, stifle creativity, and hurt job performance as well as your personal life.

Don't confuse tunnel vision with focus. Focus is a skill involving shutting out extraneous stimuli in order to accomplish a particular objective. However, when work time is over, do something you enjoy, something else about which you are passionate. You need sources of outside inspiration to continue to be productive in your career. Often, creative solutions come from unexpected perspectives, the opposite of tunnel vision.

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