Working World: Careers in International Education, Exchange, and Development

By Sherry L. Muller; Mark Overmann | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Cowtiwüoüs Journey

Like Alice, most of us think we want to go “somewhere,” and it takes some
experience to learn that, in life, there is no “somewhere. “ There is only the
road to “somewhere,” and we are always on the way.

—David Campbell, If You Don't Know Where You're
Going, You'll Probably End Up Somewhere Else

Many of us have a tendency to think about career development in terms of conclusions—what we're going to do once we're finished. We consider our career paths, and our lives, in terms such as these: “Once I've finished my degree …” or “Once I've completed my overseas experience …” or “Once I've accumulated five (or ten or fifteen) years of experience… .” Yet we rarely reflect on the fact that we're never quite finished with anything. We may complete certain building blocks of our careers (such as a degree, an experience abroad, or a particular job), but, in a way, we never really make it. Our career journeys are never over. As Larry Bacow, president of Tufts University, phrased it for us, “The only time that you can really describe your career is on the day you retire. Up until then, you're just making plans.” And even when you retire, the opportunities for a postretirement career are abundant. The road goes on and on.

We are often inclined to view a job search as a series of activities that cease once a job is found. On the contrary, it is just as important to devote time to these strategic job-search activities—defining your cause, networking, learning from mentors—once you have located a job. If you consider your career as a continuous journey of finding new and better ways to serve your cause, it is easier to understand why such activities must continue.

We have emphasized the importance of identifying your cause. But this is not a static activity. Causes do change. The first cause you identify—

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