Charting Your Path

Charting Your Path

Rebecca Wolpinsky Rebecca Wolpinsky
4 minute read

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Did your 10-year-old self correctly predict your career path? Mine didn’t. I had a wide variety of interests and a fascination and adoration for animals (I still do), but I’m certain my vision didn’t include entrepreneurial ventures into digital learning. 

As I’ve written before, my career has enjoyed a circuitous path to my current role as COO at Aptly. I’ve been supported on my journey by gracious and motivating colleagues, mentors, family, and friends—and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the advice I would give to someone embarking on their own journey. 

The first step is to realize that it is just that—a journey. There will be twists, turns, and unexpected roadblocks. It’s critical to remind ourselves that these detours—sometimes we deem them failures—are not wasted time. We learn as much from failures as we do from achievements. What matters is how we use our new knowledge to refine our goals and apply it to our lives.

To build your roadmap, you must write your own definition of success. Set aside societal or family expectations and think about what is most important to you. Imagine you’re being introduced at an event—what do you hope the presenter would say about you? 

Do you desire to be an influential voice in your career field? Or maybe your career skills are the perfect complement to volunteer leadership roles? You might aspire to significant philanthropic contributions or long-term financial gains for your loved ones. Or you may consider the ability to be fully present and engaged with your family to be your most meaningful achievement. There is no one clear definition that can be applied, just like there is no one clear path to success. Your goals might change throughout your life, and that’s absolutely ok. 

Defining your own measure of success is not easy, and I would argue that our definitions tend to shift throughout our lifetime—rerouting our roadmap. At various points in our careers, our intentions, desire, and commitment to success tip the scales of work/life balance. The drive for success may require long hours, tight wallets, or tough decisions—and the balance, or imbalance, we choose to embrace is a personal choice. The best path forward is the one we design for ourselves—the one that champions and fulfills our passions. 

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant says it well: “To understand success, pay less attention to the final product and more to the mundane process … [T]he seeds of greatness are planted in the daily grind.” Success takes hard work, and we’re likely to experience detours and mishaps—but these experiences only add value to our journey. They build character and wisdom we can use to our advantage and pay it forward to others. 

And, to get you started, here are a few words of advice that, if you know me well, you’ve probably already heard:

  • Anything worth your time is also worth the hard work to get there. Don’t shortchange yourself. Invest in yourself, be patient, work hard, and try to enjoy the process. 
  • We are all works in progress; be kind to yourself. That includes the way we talk about ourselves and our inner dialog. Ask yourself, if someone said that about your friend or family, would you be ok with it? And, if the answer is no, take a deep breath and reframe. 
  • As hard as we try, there are some days, weeks, and months (maybe even years) that we look back on and feel like we could have simply done better. And, you know what, that’s ok. No one is perfect. 
  • And, finally, don’t make decisions when you are feeling weak, angry, sad, or hungry. 

Enough of my musings, here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful: 

I’m curious to know—what career planning experiences helped you? And what unexpected detours resulted in a new path? I’d love to hear your stories.

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