Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

When I Grow Up : Career Guidance

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Yesterday I met an old school friend for the first time since we were very young adults. Now that we are much older and our careers are well and truly established, it was interesting to talk about how our lives have turned out, and how we both got to where we are now.

My friend David McCaughan is at the top of his game. He is a senior executive for a major, world-wide advertising & marketing agency. At high school, we both studied Ancient History, and were in the school debating team, and when David left school, the first decade of his working life was spent working as a childrens’ story-teller in a public library. At school, David had a clear intelligence and a sophisticated wit, but back then, nobody thought to tell him that advertising was a career choice he could or should pursue, let alone excel at. Looking back though, I can see that advertising was a natural fit for him. But he came to it circuitously.

Finding a natural fit is what career guidance is all about. A natural career fit will almost certainly ensure a successful career and happy life.

As we retold our stories and recounted our lives since school, one thing David and I have in common was very clear: we’ve both had interesting lives in which we’ve been prepared to explore and meander. We’ve been willing to go out and see. I’ve noticed this before in the lives of other successful and happy people. One of the advantages of middle age is that you get to see how things turned out, and over and over again I’ve seen that the most successful and apparently satisfied and happy of my old friends are the ones who were prepared to see new places and try new things.

Here are some of the things that seem to produce a successful career and life:

Do what you are good at

Even at school, David was always good at talking and story telling. He’s also intelligent and good at joining dots, which led him to study Political Science. He says that story-telling in the library for 10 years and studying Ancient History at school underlie his work in advertising & marketing. It makes sense: advertising is about telling a story and joining dots (seeing connections & solving problems).

If you are good at maths, then you should pursue that, if you cook really well then you should cook. If you are good at sport, then follow that.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll end up in your first, perhaps most obvious job choice, but it sets you on a path that is natural and more effortless for you to pursue.

Do what you like to do

This should closely follow the previous point. It makes sense that most people automatically like what they are good at, because they receive positive feedback both from the task and other people.

But don’t do something only because you are good at it. If you are good at maths, but hate it, don’t become an accountant just because everyone tells you how good you are with numbers.

If you are engaged by your work, then you are more than halfway there to a successful career. You’ve got to love what you do if you want a successful career and happy life.

Don’t be afraid to go out and try things

How will you know what’s out there unless you go and have a look? How will you know what you are good at? Experiment, try new things, meet people, explore, discover and follow your nose.

Be prepared to play the long game

In life, as in theatre and sport, it’s all about the timing. Trying new jobs, exploring and building up experience takes time. Be prepared for that. You need to develop tenacity and a long-term focus.

Your career will be measured by where you find yourself at 50 and 60, and what you have achieved and what you have passed on to other people. Nobody will care or remember if you drove a fancy car when you were thirty, or got a promotion, and the history books or the company records certainly won’t record it.

Time your run.


My friend David and I are still the same people we were at school, although older and wiser. And this is the point. Our career and life choices followed who we already were, and our experience heightened and informed that. It’s no surprise to me that David is a very successful human being – he always was. He had the sense to follow his talents and his instincts, and to go out and see.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

Please click on heading to leave a comment. More posts below.

Related Posts:

Work Life Balance (And How to Preserve Olives)

Slam Dunk

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.