Is a Good Career Accidental or Intentional?

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I accepted a Zoom call with a college senior recently. He wanted to understand how I had navigated my career to reach the position I’m in today. He had looked at my LinkedIn profile and assumed I had made a series of calculated career moves to get to my current position. I shared with him that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Here’s my truth.

I did not intend to major in Computer Science. I was planning to be a math teacher and my advisor suggested a CS route. After finding a few CS classes surprisingly fun and challenging, I switched my major — even though I had no idea what I’d do with it.

I never intended to be a consultant. My boyfriend suggested I apply for an internship at Accenture. Despite my flub in telling the hiring manager I absolutely didn’t want to go into consulting full-time, he saw potential in me and offered me the job anyway. I loved that internship and, as a result, went into consulting full-time. 

I never intended to be entrepreneurial, but after growing weary of the travel, I took a position with a small startup consulting firm as a stopgap until I figured out what was next. During this time, I realized that the community of growing a company was what I’d been missing and also discovered my love of technology strategy work.

I never intended to start my own company. That sounded risky and crazy. But I’d gotten clearer about what mattered to me, and when my best friend asked me to join him in creating a different kind of consulting firm, it was the easiest and fastest decision I’ve ever made. I had no idea then how the company would grow and evolve, but I knew we would work collaboratively to solve problems that improve people’s lives. That felt aligned with what really mattered to me.

I’m a total believer in the power of intention. Still, when I look at my career to date, it wasn’t an intention to study technology, become a consultant, or become an entrepreneur that got me to where I am today — it was my interest in learning new things and my openness to new paths when an unexpected opportunity came along. It was the mentors I’ve had along the way who have helped me see new possibilities for what I could do. It was staying true to what mattered to me.

Back to the college senior. I told him on our Zoom call that my career was more accidental than intentional, but in thinking about it, it might have been driven by purpose more than I’d realized along the way.

Looking forward as I look back, I’m going to let myself off the hook for not having it all figured out. Perhaps because my top talent in StrengthsFinder is “Futuristic”, I always want to have a crystal-clear vision for everything. I believe in intention, but I also want to approach my own career, and this company we are building, with curiosity. As I support others in their journeys, I want to help them discover and uncover possibilities they may not see yet.