Is it helpful to think in terms of "a career" anymore?

The dictionary has two very distinct definitions of career. The first (noun form) refers to an “occupation undertaken for a significant period of time with an opportunity for progress” [1]. This very succinctly states how most of us see our work: it is something that we do for 30-40 years of our life. A job in most cases pays the bills, in some cases leads to promotion and significant responsibility and in a few cases provides real contentment. After all, how many of us belly-ache constantly about our workplaces to our family, friends and in some instances, even to perfect strangers!

I much prefer the second (verb form) definition the dictionary has to offer: that of a bus careering “swiftly and in an uncontrolled manner” [1] into a hedge! This may seem strange and alarming. Yet, if we look at our own career paths (those of us in the MBA/IMBA program here at Schulich) and that of our colleagues, one thing stands out: several, nay the bulk, of us have experienced several career switches already. For most of us, this has happened within 5 years’ work experience. Indeed, most of the MBA/IMBA cohort at Schulich is contemplating a potential career switch.

We as a generation are looking for “meaning” in our lives, both personal and professional. In his book “A Whole New Mind”, author Daniel Pink suggests that business leaders today view “spirituality” as a pursuit not of religion, but one of “meaning” [2]. I believe this to be very true and will suggest that in this pursuit of “meaning”, we all need to negotiate a period of purgatory. I draw on a Roman Catholic theological concept here for the purpose of illustration, which essentially states that we as human beings need to experience a period of “purification” in order to realize our ideal state. For many of us a search for meaning in our career can be a frustrating and emotionally upheaving experience. What we need to maintain throughout is a sight of our end goal and our self-belief.

You may be thinking to yourself, “so what?!” What we as citizens of a turbulent time need to embrace is the right side of our brain. We need to learn to empathize more and not be too analytical, most of all with ourselves.

This including treating our careers as an experience that we learn from, both the good and bad. Every event in our experience holds a kernel of learning. We need to introspect to glean these kernels and apply these in our future endeavours.

This is where having a long-term vision of where we wish to see ourselves, 10-15 years down the road, becomes critical. Picture a bright neon sign, off in the distance. It stands high above everything around it, the light broadcasting its message from afar. Every time we feel disheartened or frustrated by the turbulence of the present, all we need to do is look up to the sign to reaffirm where we are headed. It will provide context for our daily endeavours and help us reassess and direct our decision making at a tactical level. We need to harness this skill of having a long-term vision that we can use as a guiding beacon to guide us through the chaos of our immediate reality. If we can do this to keep ourselves on track, the accomplishments and milestones will follow of their own accord.


  1. career: definition of career in Oxford dictionary (British & World English). (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2013, from
  2. A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age – Books24x7. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2013, from

[box type=”info”]Shouri Bagchi is an IMBA Candidate, class of 2015. [/box]

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2013-12-06T08:00:41+00:00 December 6th, 2013|Categories: Community|Tags: , , , , |


  1. Michael Miller December 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Fun Fact!

    In the 18th Century the word career only applied to a horse’s racing life. It didn’t find its association with our working lives until later in the industrial revolution when our relation with industry and work itself was fundamentally changed. Given that our relation with work continues to change, it would not be surprising to think that the word career might be traded for another, or lose the meaning that many of us associate with it today.

    • Shouri Bagchi December 15, 2013 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing that interesting factoid Michael. The analogy between a racing horse’s short “career” and the short (relative to historical patterns) stints that Millenials do at any one firm in their professional lives may bring the the word “career” full circle.

  2. Lisa Pierosara December 11, 2013 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Bravo Shouri. It’s an important reminder for all to consider mission, purpose, the bigger picture… and yes, it is a skill(and an exciting challenge) to keep refining it as experiences shape us further.

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