In my March month of travelling I had three notable evenings where I ended up having dinner with some senior people working in my field. These dinners often ended up getting round to the question of what do you want to do with your career? This is always a really difficult question to answer because it can be heavily influenced by the person you are talking to. However, over those dinners they passed on some great pearls of wisdom which I think apply whatever industry you are in.
The first piece of advice was don’t be over ambitious and bite off more than you can chew when you are starting out in your career. Do what you do well and then build on this. At the same time do not underestimate the power of developing a network of people who know your work. Also it doesn’t cost anything to be nice and you never know when it might pay off (see also this post on networking).
The second notable conversation centred around the extra curricular bits that get your cv noticed compared to others. In engineering there is a vast resource available to you if you are a member of an institution. The advice was to get involved with an area you are passionate about and make a contribution. This also relates to the first point it can also raise your profile with another group of people and profile a new network.
The last conversation was probably the most unexpectedly interesting. It mainly centred on whether it was a good idea to have a really detailed career plan. The advice might surprise you but this senior figure said no. This was on the basis of if you have a plan you rigidly stick to you may be less open to opportunities and less adaptable. Being reactive to opportunities was no bad thing.
This conversation continued on about opportunities and luck and we concluded that you make your own luck and the book The Luck Factor was recommended to me, which is now on my list to read. So what is the best careers advice you’ve ever had? Do you agree with their advice? Or are some people more lucky than others?
Following on from this and my recent post Straddling a Fault Line; another fault line I’ve straddled throughout my career to date is the academia-industry divide. Recently however an opportunity presented itself to implement some of my research findings at a large scale within the energy industry. It was an opportunity that presented itself out if the blue, maybe I was just lucky, but was too good to turn down. So I’ll be moving on at the end of June with both feet on the industry side of the divide for the first time…