Leavin’ on a Jet Plane: The Career Traveler

Perspectives Gained at the Airport

Perspectives Gained at the Airport

As a former road warrior (and former airline employee), I spent a lot of time people-watching while waiting at the airport.  With plenty of time on my hands, my creative juices started to flow.  It allowed me to draw out different scenarios that connect life and people moving through the airport.  One big connection was around how we make decisions.  It’s amazing how much you really can learn spending just a few hours sitting at the gate!!

During my last trip on blizzard-like day in Ohio, I sat in amazement as I watched people in all different emotional states during their journey.

You can imagine what I mean when the word blizzard and airport merged together.  It was this beautiful disaster.  It prompted me to examine my own emotional state during my career journey over the years.  I’ve drawn correlations between the 3 main types of travelers at the airport to how people manage through their career travel (or journey).  Below are my top three kinds of career travelers. Take some time to think about which one best represents you as you move through your career.

The Career Travelers:

  • The Runner: The person who runs over every person they come in contact with just to get to their destination. You may know someone who operates at this level in their career.  Using this type of behavior to progress in a career is typically associated with a level of fear that drains everyone of energy around them.  It may actually present itself as confidence or arrogance, but it is simply a mask of insecurity.  They’re afraid of failure, afraid they might lose out on something so they manipulate and undermine people to get what they want.  They constantly seek the lime-light at any cost to those around them.  The main thought in their head is all about “what’s in it for me.” 
  • The Disoriented:  The person who is in a state of confusion.  They’re lost, overwhelmed and not sure where to go or who to ask.  They operate at a level of fear that leaves them feeling like the victim.  Everyone is doing something to them that prevents them from getting where they want to be and achieving their goals. They spend a tremendous amount of time waiting for someone else to plan their career and give them what they believe they are entitled to in life. The main thought in their head is “poor me.”
  • The On Course:  The person who is right where they need to be and has plenty of time to find their final destination. They are confident and self-aware.  They know that only they can truly be responsible for their own career path and understand that progression is a journey.  Each step comes with lessons to learn and gifts to take away from every role (good or bad) and they accept it.  They seek out their own development plan to elevate them to the career of their dreams. The main thought in their head is “the world is full of possibility and potential.”

The important thing to remember is none of the emotional states are right or wrong.  It’s simply someone on their own journey to self-awareness.  How you view the world at any given moment can cause different types of behavior, but as a wise coach once told me….”how you show up for anything, is how you show up for everything.”  You have a choice every single day to be who you want to be and make different choices.  I challenge you to examine the three types of career travelers and decide who you want to be.  If you’re not showing up like you want to, change it.

Let me give you a personal glimpse into my own path.  What I realized throughout my own career is that I’ve been every one of the career travelers at some stage of the game.   When I left college, I was “The Disoriented” career traveler.  I didn’t have a career plan. I wasn’t even really sure what I wanted to do with my life.  I worked in jobs long enough to just understand that I “didn’t” want to do that…sound familiar?  At one company, I literally submitted a job application for every job that came out on the job board.  I would tell myself there was something about that job that I was qualified to do….and let’s be honest, I was qualified for maybe 1 of every 30 jobs I submitted my name for on a really good day.

In my late-20’s, I took control of my destiny…or maybe it took control of me.  I was blessed with finding a mentor.  She sat me down and really made me focus on activities I loved to do and helped me put a plan together to find that dream career path.  She prepped me for interviews and supported me with words of affirmation.  15 years later, I’m still in that same career field and feel lucky that I found my passion.  Of course, the jobs themselves evolved over time, but the career field itself remained solid for me.  I became “The On Course” career traveler. 

 An important thing to note about “The On Course” traveler is that being right where you are supposed to be does not mean things are perfect in the job itself.  Your perspective about the job is what makes you on-course.  Even if the role is a terrible fit, you get decide what the gift is that you were supposed to take away.  For example, I have been in some hostile work environments.  The job itself was a perfect fit but the leadership around me was less than desirable. I had to take very emotional moments and find the gift.  For me, it was usually the type of leadership behavior that I never wanted to exhibit.  Or, helping those around me who were stuck in “The Disoriented” traveler mode find self-value so they could move on.  There is always a lesson or gift…and a choice.   

I never wanted to be “The Runner” in my career travels.  There were many moments where my values were challenged.  When that happened, I made choices.  For example, during one of my career adventures, I ran up against “The Runner”.  He was my peer and always fighting for the lime-light.  We liked to joke that we were arch nemesis, but the reality was we weren’t joking.  It became a game to see who could outshine the other person.  Now, the organization was probably just fine with it.  We went above and beyond and delivered more than our fair share of the work, but at the end of the day it was at the expense of each other.  We weren’t looking for ways to partner or collaborate for the greater good. We were fighting for the promotion; each of us with some sense of fear around our own capability. We played that game for 2 years.  It was exhausting.  One day, I finally made a choice to stop the madness.  I knew I was capable and talented.  I didn’t need to compare myself to anyone.  I was my only competition.  As soon as I came to that realization, I was promoted into a role.  I was so blinded by competition that I didn't even know the role existed.  Again, destiny was calling to me.

Change is the only constant we have in life. I challenge you to become more self-aware.  Think about what kind of career traveler you are and make a conscious choice about who you want to be.  If you aren’t aware of who you are, then you can’t make solid decisions that propel you forward.   Your career is a huge part of your life; whether you are working to live or living to work.  Think about the three career travelers and decide…are you engaging in your career from a place of fear or love?  Are you truly self-aware and confident in your abilities, so much so, that you believe you are your only competition?  That’s where success begins. 

Share a story about your career travels.  You might find that you are a different kind of career traveler or hybrid of what I shared.  I would love to hear from you!!