The answer to that question is YES. You could plan your career but mostly it doesn't work. Don't take my word for it. You could try to check it for yourself. A long term career plan never works. Here is why.
Life is full of uncertainties. It throws in a number of variables that can't be controlled. A plan needs some level of certainty. A plan can't be built with a number of changing parameters. This is the reason why most plans fail.
On top of that we human beings have a planning fallacy (a cognitive bias) that we over-think a plan and under-do action.
Here is what you could do instead for exemplary careers.
- Fix a north star for your career with things you enjoy doing.
- Once a north star is fixed, figure out what areas will allow you to reach your north star. Choose ONE area that you want to spend the rest of your life mastering.
Every rabbit hole is deep so whatever you choose you might not be able to finish it this lifetime. I guarantee. In that sense, you are safe to choose any area. It could be knowledge management, plumbing, gardening, creative problem solving, investments, whatever. Just pick one that you enjoy.
- Mark this area and build your circle of competence around it. Develop deep expertise in that area.
Pro tip: Become a teacher of that area. You will learn responsibly.
- Comfortably say "I don't know" for everything outside your circle of competence.
- Do more work in your circle of competence and build a living portfolio.
- You will never be done this lifetime so keep building this portfolio in the form of products or projects or programs.
- Compound your mastery. You will become so good that you cannot be ignored.
- When you can't be ignored, you get to work on better problem statements in your area and you are (heavily) paid for that too.
- Career is a journey. Meet some fellow travellers who know better than you and who know things that you don't know. Learn (from others) curiously and teach (give others) joyfully.
- Die well.
You are doing what you love and you are getting paid for doing what you love. You have a variety of problem statements to enhance your mastery and people give you these problems for you to solve. There could not be a better way to build a career. This cannot be planned. So don't waste your life in planning your careers. Instead go do a project and learn a thing or two about your circle of competence every day. Compound your learning every single day. You are never done so don't stop.
You are paid for your reputation. Reputation gives you power. Power makes you accomplish more. The more you accomplish you get to know how much you don't know. Learn. Repeat.
🥂 to unplanned careers!