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Be a Good Career Traveler
by Dave Neal

Every job you ever have is part of your career journey, and you should be a traveler on that journey rather than a tourist. Noted historian and Librarian of Congress, Daniel Boostin, observed:

“The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes sightseeing.”

Your work life is what you make of it. Show me someone who “lives for the weekends” and eyeballs the clock all day, marking each break as a milestone to a temporary nightly reprieve, and I’ll show you someone who needs a change, either a job change or a job-approach change.

“But I can’t change jobs,” you complain, “I’m …” What? Too old, too specialized, too under-skilled, too reliant on the paycheck, too scared? Well, maybe. But it’s a big world out there with lots of options and opportunities. A company called Vocation Vacations, started in 2004, even offers mini-mentoring experiences so you can test-drive your dream job.

The problem is not always with the job, but with our approach to it. We need to connect and engage more fully in what we do, realizing its importance to us and to others. Like anything else in life — practicing a musical instrument, building meaningful relationships, volunteering community service — we get out of a job what we put in it.

Whether you’re starting a new job or trying to put wind back in the sails of your old job, there are some immediate steps you can take to move forward. Think of these steps as the Immediate I’s — or, “things ‘I’ can do immediately to be a good traveler on my career journey.”

Get Informed:

Be curious about your job, your company, and your industry. Find out what’s going on, what’s most important, and what you can do right now to make a difference. You can’t learn too much about the world you work in, and you build vital skills and knowledge in any job that can be applied throughout your career. Learn, know, and grow.

Get Involved:

Throw yourself out there and join the dance. No timid hearts. Get to know your coworkers and interact with them with an open mind. Get to know your customers and learn how you can best meet their needs, right now. You don’t need an annoying, in-your-face style to be “out there.” You can simply show interest, enthusiasm, and flexibility in your job and in the overall success of the company.

Get Inspired:

Don’t drag yourself out of bed every morning like a rock trying to turn itself over; find the thing that will spring you out of bed and energize you all day. A compelling goal and personal mission will get you up and going. When things get tough, have an optimistic, “can do” attitude. The world throws a lot of tough stuff at us that can sap our energy or feed our energy, depending on our outlook and response. Also, have high expectations of yourself and those around you. Don’t settle for mediocre and “good-enough” efforts or you’ll get mediocre and “good-enough” results.

Get Innovative:

Take risks, think differently, and don’t fear failure. If you truly care about your work and are accountable for your actions, you will recover from well-intentioned failures and missteps, learn from them, and be better for them. Raise your big and small ideas and suggestions that will improve the company. Have a playful and creative approach to work. Just because you’re focused and disciplined doesn’t mean you have to be dull and rigid. Attitude is everything.

Get It Done:

That’s simple enough. Make a decision and make a move. “Get off the porch,” as the old saying goes. Too often, we make promises to ourselves to be better people tomorrow, and tomorrow never comes. Be an action-oriented person with a purposeful step. Keep your head up, your eyes open, and your mind focused.

Journeys aren’t walks in the park. They challenge us and make us better people. Be a good traveler on your career journey and get the most out of every job, otherwise the journey probably won’t take you very far.

Dave Neal may be contacted at
Dave Neal has helped develop thousands of employees and managers in organizations around the world for over 15 years. He is a senior partner at 4th Street Training. Web: Blog: Email:


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