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Does shifting a career path mean failure?

Yesterday, I interviewed artist Romero Britto for a profile I'm writing. I love his work and I would guess that many others do too based on his success. He told me he loved to paint as a kid, but he thought he wanted to be a diplomat when he grew up. His friend's father was a diplomat and made the career look glamorous with the potential to be affluent. But Britto didn't have an easy time following that path and became frustrated. So, he returned to painting and kept at it until he got a break and had his work shown in a gallery.

His story made me think about conversations I've been having over the last few days about career paths. Many of my friends are trying to guide their teens on what careers to pursue. Those paths aren't always the ones their parents want them to take because of the job opportunities in some fields.

But the truth is, how many people know their career path as a young adult and stay on that path? It brings up the question: Does success require you stay focused?

I'd like to say that success comes from trying different paths and finding the right one for you.  For some people, that has worked. But not for everyone.

Last night, I moderated a panel called Women of Influence. The four women leaders -- from HR, law and finance - areas of their company were asked if they always knew what they wanted to do and whether they set their sights on ascending to the top throughout their careers.

Catherine Smith, general counsel of Brightstar Corp., answered the question by painting a career as a series of experiences.

"When I was growing up, I wanted to be lawyer or doctor. I met physics and became a lawyer. I think you pivot in the zone of you want. I was focused on what I wanted to do but I know I needed experiences so I would have the knowledge to face different situations. It's important to get different experiences and mold it into what ever it is you decide you want your career to be."

It seems like the key is if you diverge from your original path, focus hard on your new direction. To me, success is about being happy, passionate and smart in the career path you're on, even if it's not the one you orginally set out on.

Anne Bramman, CFO of Carnival, says whatever path you choose, remember, talent management is a two-way process "no one is going to manage your career except you."


Me and Romero Britto




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Laura Marks

Cindy, you and Romero look great! Excellent review of the event and comments on career transition.
Having had the opportunity to choose (or sometimes, forcibly follow) diverse career opportunities, it is important to note that changes in career paths can stem from changes in the external environment as well. Industry trends, economic upheaval, mergers and acquisitions, etc. often-times force individuals to revisit options and seek new, challenging and passion-centered choices for the future.
Working with more than 1,000 individuals over the past 10 years within Back On Track Network, our speakers often remind us that re-tooling is a necessary part of career management. Technology has led many professionals to shift paths, and retool for the future of the professions they already follow.
Continued success to you, Romero and your readership in whatever endeavors they undertake.

Cindy Goodman

I agree, technology has and will continue to led many of us to shift paths. It make take an extra effort but I think it's worthwhile to embrace that technology and stay on the forefront of change. I applaud workers who re-tool and come out on top.

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