Unrealistic career expectations can be the difference between success and failure. We all have career expectations and ambitions. It’s the dream of landing the perfect job, climbing the career ladder at top speed, or even discovering the secret shortcut to success.
But many of us have already faced the reality that these expectations are often a little… well, unrealistic. (I wanted to be a scientist. You get the idea.)
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So why do we have such expectations?
Essentially, these are the vivid pictures we paint for ourselves about our careers: the professional roles we aspire to, the successes we hope to achieve, and the overall trajectory we envision.
Whether it’s the influence of success stories on social media, the pressure to have it all figured out by a certain age or just a dash of youthful optimism, we’re all there. I’ve been there before. It’s great to have big dreams.
Dreaming is the spark that ignites ambition. However, the downside is that these dreams become rigid expectations and prepare you for a difficult road ahead. But here’s the thing…
Unrealistic career expectations can be a double-edged sword
On the one hand, they push us to aim high and shoot for the stars. But on the flip side, they can lead to frustration, burnout, and even a sense of failure when reality doesn’t land your dream job straight out of college only to find yourself in an entry-level position. It’s a reality check.
Now, why is it so crucial to align our expectations with reality?
s primarily about setting ourselves up for success in a way thats sustainable and meaningful. Imagine you are planning a cross-country road trip. Set realistic goals each day and allow for breaks and detours. Now imagine planning this trip as if you were teleporting from coast to coast without a map. It’s like having unrealistic career expectations.
It’s easy if you start from the beginning. Adjusting expectations is not about lowering the bar. It is important to first set appropriate standards. It is also important to realize that the road to success often involves unexpected twists and turns, and such surprises do not mean the end of the entire career.
Think of it as recalibrating your GPS. While you’re still on your way to your destination, you can choose from different routes and enjoy scenic detours. This approach not only reduces stress but also opens the door to opportunities you never thought of.
Flexibility also facilitates progress.
Let’s take a look at nature. Have you ever heard of this fable about the neem tree and bamboo? It’s a fairy tale that may be a bit niche, but in essence, the mighty and proud neem tree looks down on the humble bamboo. Later, when a particularly violent storm came, Neem was shocked and collapsed. However, the bamboo survived the storm largely unscathed. how?
As we all know, while hard trees can break in a storm, flexible trees are more likely to bend and survive. Similarly, balancing career expectations with reality is like giving yourself the flexibility to weather storms of uncertainty. (It may sound cheesy, but it’s true.)
When things get tough in your career, you need to change lanes. Please be flexible.
It’s not about giving up on your dreams but rather allowing them to develop organically in a way that suits you.
The first step is…
Discovering Yourself Before Achieving Your Career Goals
Balancing your expectations is also a journey of self-discovery. Remember that you may not have all the answers right away. That’s okay though. Your early professional experience is a wealth of opportunities waiting to be discovered.
A surefire way to find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie is to perform a SWOT analysis. This is an important step that goes hand-in-hand with your personal growth plan and is also a great way to understand yourself more deeply.
Now, let’s start practicing. How do you take the first step in your career journey? International career coach and early career strategist Kithmi Pathirana, Recruitment and Customer Experience Manager at Capital Placement, offers some insights.
“All you have to do is have a beginner’s mindset so that you can learn different things from your internship or your first job. By remaining open to different tasks without restrictions, you can Learn as much as you can from a job or internship and move into a particular area,” advises Kisumi.
“Imagine going to a buffet where you can try a variety of things. This way you can figure out what you like, what you don’t like, what you’re good at, and what you’re bad at,” she added.
But just as there are little delicacies on a rich and delicious buffet, so too are professions divided into niches. Some have no shelf life into the future, while others have a much shorter shelf life. Kithmi recommends: “Try not to get into a niche because a niche is something you want to get into at some point after you figure out what you’re good at, what you’re bad at, what you like, and what you don’t like.”
It takes many years to build a career, but it is not uncommon to specialize in a niche field. However, it requires a purposeful and extensive analysis. Otherwise, you may have a hard time balancing your career expectations with a niche that isn’t working for you.
So, what can you do to ensure you are on the path you want? Click here for Kisumi’s suggestions!
Build a Network
Building and maintaining connections is half the work you do in your professional life. Take advantage of this opportunity to surround yourself with mentors, colleagues, and industry experts who understand the realities of the professional world. Follow them on social media to stay up to date on their perspectives, attend seminars (virtually or in-person), chat and ask questions, and more. They give advice, share their experiences, and sometimes even offer some advice of their own. Just in case you need an extra boost.
Research is your best ally
In an age where everything from the phone in our hand to the cake on our plate can process vast amounts of information and deliver it to our fingertips. , ignorance is also an option.
It’s important to stay informed about your chosen industry, upcoming trends, and potential challenges. It’s not about creating a Wiki page. The key is to have a well-equipped toolbox to deal with the complexities of your chosen field.
When major disruptions occur that make it difficult to locate and maintain work in the field, you need to be informed so that you can respond appropriately to these disruptions.
Why should we care?
After all this, you might ask yourself: “But why should I care about my career expectations? Why do I need to do all this research and planning?” It is very important to understand. There are several reasons! Let’s take a look at some.
Make decisions with fewer regrets.
Knowing what you want from your career is like a roadmap. This will help you make decisions that align with your overall career plan and make every step you take meaningful.
Work doesn’t become a pain
If you know what you want from a job, you can look for a role or job that matches your values. This makes work more enjoyable because it aligns with your interests.
Get the right skills
Knowing your career expectations can help you figure out the skills you need to succeed. You can then work on developing these skills and become a valuable resource in your field.
Your career expectations are like the building blocks for setting goals. These short-term or long-term goals give you a clear path to professional development. Once you have a clear idea of your career goals, you can set goals that you know are achievable.
Fostering Personal Growth
Once you know what you want from your career, think about how you can further develop. It’s like a journey of self-improvement that continues throughout your career expectations.
Guide your study plan.
Clear career expectations help make decisions about education and training. Whether you go back to school or get additional training, make sure it will benefit your career.
Easier network connectivity.
Networking will be easier if you can talk about what you want from your career. You can connect with people who can mentor and help you because they understand what you are aiming for.
Avoid career confusion
Knowing your career expectations can help you avoid taking a job that’s not a good fit. It acts as a buffer against the frustration that arises when you feel stuck in a job that doesn’t suit you.
Careers change, and that’
s okay. Knowing what you expect from your career helps you go with the flow, adapt to changes, and grab new opportunities. When your work matches your career expectations, you are more likely to be happy in the long run. It`s about finding purpose and satisfaction in your work.