When You’re At a Career Crossroad, Let Your Desires Be Your Guide

At the crossroads.

“I have an offer on the table for the top role at a new company. Salary is double the current role. I am in that space as to what do I do next. When you mentioned earlier today in your presentation about being at the crossroads, that is where I am.”

I had mentioned earlier that day that we all will sometime reach a crossroad in our career pursuit: “Should I go or should I stay?”

Take the money off the table

My counsel was that he should take money out of the equation as it will distort the decision-making process. Earlier that day, he mentioned that he wanted a more strategic role, which is what should drive his next career move.

In all our careers, we will reach that crossroad and we’ll look for insight as to which way to turn. Sometimes we are given a blank slate upon which we can choose to re-create our path or plod ahead on the mystical journey. There is no right way or wrong way, but there are consequences that go along with each.

Creating your masterpiece

I write this blog today from Bali, Indonesia where I will work this week. I mention that because 4 or 5 years ago, I was at that space looking into the abyss. I knew I did not enjoy what I was doing in New York; could not imagine myself doing it for the remainder of my life. One morning an email came in from a headhunter inquiring if I would be interested in moving to Saudi Arabia as CHRO. While the benefits were off the charts, the meat of the role is what drove the decision. That and being in a job I did not like. Within a few months, I was living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In a few years, when that role turned out to be not as portrayed, I was back at the crossroads. This time another inquiry came in. I pursed it and ended up in Dubai. When the itch came again after a year or so, I knew that I would have to create my own masterpiece.

Since I was on the speaker circuit, and having spoken at every major HR conference, it was an easy move to open my own firm in the region, which I did over a year ago. Fast forward till today and over the past few months I have been to Brussels, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Singapore to name a few. 2017 will be a whirlwind of more travel and opportunities.

Desires drive the decision

I related this story to my new friend to say that we all have been there, but the key is to let your desires drive your choice. That choice should be made based on what you are looking for in the next step of your career and not what a job description is offering. Sometimes we may make the wrong decision because we were not clear about what we want. We accept opportunities and look back later in disappointment and realize that we should have taken a pass.

I recently received an email from a former colleague who told me, “I made a huge mistake accepting this job.”

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The job was not what she was hired to do; she hated every day. She was miserable and very unhappy. Sometimes our decision-making gets skewed because we made it based on the opportunity at hand. My move to Saudi was the same, but I realized that it was not the job I signed on for. The plus side was that I was able to get to the Middle East. My next step was to maximize my HR presence in the region by speaking at any conference that would have me. I met people, tried things and learned everything I could. I made the best of it as I plotted my next move. I realized that this was a pit stop in my career.

No right or wrong, just different consequences

But this idea of right and wrong in your career path is a fallacy. There are only choices, and with every choice comes an opportunity. If it is not working, it is your responsibility to analyze the situation and create your plan toward next step. Regardless of how bad it looks, you will look back and realize it was just a small pivot that you had to make.

The world is full of opportunities but what I am seeing from this vantage point is that we concentrate on opportunities within our cities, region, etc. The world is looking for talent all over. I have met fellow HR professionals who have worked all over the world. They would never have stayed in their hometown and limited themselves to only that feast or famine of opportunities.

Everyone should at some time or another visual how their “perfect” opportunity looks. In the end, we have no one to blame if we do not at least get in the vicinity.

I could never have envisioned an HR space of this type, but when I look back I realize that on our journey we will always encounter detours. Those detours will allow us to readjust our sights. They are just temporary and are not roadblocks, if we don’t let them be.

Step back and take some time and paint that masterpiece. In the end, you may realize that it was all worth it.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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