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Where will your career take you…or vice versa?

Where will your career take you? Where will you take your career?

These are two very similar, but not identical, questions that I feel are worth asking yourself. Allow me to explain.

I’ll preface any opinions shared below as just that. Neither of the categories should be seen as the ideal or correct way to go about finding a career. It’s strangely a relief to finally write something that isn’t going to help you avoid a #PRfail. This is a philosophical exercise that will help define you as a professional, but more important, as a person.

  1. Where will your career take you?

This path of thinking is for professionals who are willing to live anywhere to pursue their dream job. I like to think of these individuals as nomads, adventurists and opportunists. New York? Bring it on. Calgary? I can be there in a week. These folks can adapt their personal lives to any environment. This includes the food they eat, the crowd they meet and the hobbies they discover.

Pessimistic outlook: There will always be a bigger and better gig out there, if I don’t limit my playing field.
Optimist outlook: I will have leverage over my employer, if growth opportunities/pay increases begin to slow.

There is something to be said about finding a career that will allow you to continuously grow and be rewarded financially for producing great work. Money and success aren’t the only motivators for these people. The willingness to move anywhere for a job also means having the opportunity to find a job that aligns with your biggest passion in life — soccer, fashion, wine, outer space, sea turtles — whatever it may be.

  1. Where will you take your career?

At times, I’ve wanted to be the person in the first category, but one of the things I’ve discovered about myself growing into adulthood is the need for comfort and consistency in my personal life. As you may know by now, I was raised in a small town in Arkansas, and one of the things I prioritized during my job hunt was finding a job in a mid-size market. A move to New York or Chicago didn’t make sense to me at the time, and that’s okay.

Pessimistic outlook: There simply won’t be as many career options out there for me.
Optimist outlook: Limiting my career options will help me laser-focus my research to find the perfect job for me and my life.

If you’re anything like me, the city you live in is just as the important as where you work, if not more. As an adult, cost of living, real estate markets, school districts, crime rates and a slew of other things become reasons why you are or are not willing to relocate for a job. While we don’t want to become so picky as to limit our career options, being somewhat selective allows us to have our cake and eat it, too.

Next Steps: “I’m a 1”
Now that you’ve determined you’re willing to move anywhere to pursue money/success/your passion/all of the above, all you have to do is find what those jobs look like.

If you’re a soccer nut like me, should you look into a front office job for an English Premier League team? Maybe with a corporation that is a major sponsor of the game? Perhaps you’d rather have an agency role to develop an arsenal of soccer media contacts? The beauty of being open minded allows you to determine how you will impact the field of your choice.

Here is a sample list of criteria I would set to determine organizations that fall under my preference.

  1. Is this a major soccer sponsor?
  2. If not, is it an agency that supports a lot of soccer-related clients?
  3. Would soccer be a major part of my day-to-day?
  4. Would there be travel/staffing opportunities?
  5. Are there growth opportunities?
  6. Is the pay competitive?

Establishing a network within your industry of interest is the best thing you can do, if you fall under this category. Lower-level executives can help you discover these answers during happy hours, informational phone sessions or maybe through a LinkedIn/email conversation, if appropriate.

Once you know enough of the major players of this industry, navigating through the opportunities doesn’t seem so overwhelming. You’ll often find your area of interest is a tight-knit circle that extends across organizations. Become a part of those conversations on Twitter, participate in LinkedIn discussions and share your opinions through a trade-specific blog. Simply be a familiar name and establish yourself as a thought-leader. Opportunity will come knocking.

Next Steps: “I’m a 2”
Though I’m not proactively seeking job opportunities, this was a fun/challenging/dynamic process for me. There are a million ways for you to do the same, so make this guide your own.

I first started with a map of the United States. In a sense, that was my first slice of the job market. Next, I began to examine cities based on if I could see myself living there. Without offending readers with my results, I’ll instead tell you my slicing criteria and the cities that rose to the top.

  1. Can I drive/fly home often? (Living in an airline’s hub city allows for cheap transportation)
  2. Can I find a neighborhood that will feel like home? (I like the idea of my future kids being able to play in the street)
  3. Are there sports teams?
  4. Do I know anybody there?

About two dozen cities survived the slicing at this point, so I tiered the results into red, yellow and green categories in a Google Map. Red meant that no job in the world would make me reconsider moving to this place. I tried my best to keep an open mind while also not shortchanging my personal life. Yellow meant I would consider a location if the job was a great fit, and green markers were the ideal fit for me (Denver, Kansas City, Fayetteville, Ark., Chicago, Nashville and Charlotte).

If I were to continue this process, I would then look at companies that fall under my yellow- and green-marked cities. I’d list out my business relationships and extensive PRSA network. I’d include organizations whose work has been nationally recognized and fit my background (consumer-focused with opportunities to work in sports). I would essentially create a directory for each of these potential cities to develop leads, and only then would I begin to distribute my resume.

If done right, this would take many weeks to figure out, but for those of us who fall under #2, so much is at stake.

Final thoughts
Another cool thing about philosophies and priorities is that they can easily and quickly change over time. What may be have been important to my 21-year-old recent graduate self has evolved to my 26-year-old nearly married and owns a home self existence.

photo courtesy of flikr user calsidyrose

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2 thoughts on “Where will your career take you…or vice versa?

  1. I love your insight on “I’m a 1.” Sometimes when I think about my future career in public relations, I often look at the pay, the kind of company and I forget about my own interests at heart. I like the list that you wrote, and I think its a great method of concluding whether or not one particular job is right for you and your interests. In your “I’m a 2” section, I also thought that listing out business relationships or connections to companies at your own interest was also insightful. These are some great tips for someone who is about to enter the field of public relations at an entry-level standpoint! Thank you so much!

  2. I really enjoyed this article and learning about your career philosophies. One of the reasons I decided to go into Public Relations was because I felt that it was an industry where I could build a successful career, not just find a job. To me that means building a career at a company that encourages me to push my limits, always be my best, and incorporate my passions and interests into my work. This article is especially helpful for people looking to spice up their work life and recent graduates, like myself, trying to figure out what to do next. Thank you for sharing your philosophies! These tips are something I will always keep in mind.

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