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Career Tip: Ignore the GPS

In your career there are going to be a lot of voices trying to guide you. Sometimes the best thing you can do though is ignore them and follow your own path.

We’ve all been there. You’re lost in the middle of a city or suburb on your way to a place you’ve never been. You’re relying on the direction of your GPS, but it seems as though it led you to the wrong place.

You call the business or person you’re trying to visit and let them know that their location on the GPS is wrong. They respond, “This happens all the time. They have us in the wrong place.”

Too often it seems that we listen to the GPSs in our lives to a major fault. These GPSs are our parents, friends, professors, mentors and can even include the voices of little-known strangers we meet along the way.

Here’s why sometimes you need to ignore the GPSs in your career:

They Make You Neglect Your Instincts

How many times have you been driving with the guidance of your GPS and it tells you to make a particular turn, but you know in your gut that isn’t the right way to go?

Unfortunately this translates to our professional careers. Either our parents have convinced us to follow a career path that we never wanted, our professors tell us we aren’t suited for our passions or our friends have no faith in our dreams.

If you follow the direction of these voices, contrary to what your instincts are telling you, it can be harmful. You may end up going down the wrong street and hitting a dense cloud of traffic you couldn’t see a few moments ago.

The GPS also may have been wrong and you hear the dreaded, “Recalculating.” When it snaps back into shape, you realize that thirty additional minutes have been added to your trip.

So when you have a destination in mind, and the GPS tells you to make a turn contrary to your instincts, ignore it. Ignore the voices that deter you from following your passion area. Ignore the voices that tell you to take a turn that you know in your heart is wrong for your career.

They Try to Make You Follow a Set Path

Marketing, advertising and public relations students looking to enter the professional world wrestle with what many perceive to be “the set path” to industry success.

Specifically that includes joining an agency right out of college and climbing the hierarchal corporate ladder at an average pace. Unfortunately most young communications minds default to pursuing this path because they see it as “the set path.”

A GPS might lay out a path for you to reach your destination, but don’t be fooled–there are countless other ways to get there. You don’t have to follow the blue line and navigation orders spouting from your GPS.

The Fred Cook Example:

I talk a lot about Fred Cook’s book Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO. Cook is the CEO of Golin–one of the largest PR and creative agencies in the world–and he didn’t get there by climbing the traditional corporate ladder.

After a life of diverse experiences, Cook decided he wanted to enter the PR agency world at age 36. This “required” him to get an entry level position that 20-somethings were competing for. Quite simply, he felt out of place in the room full of fresh recruits. He knew if he followed what the GPS was saying about the agency world, he wouldn’t stand a chance at accomplishing his dreams.

So what did he do? He launched his own agency for a while, which wasn’t on the GPS’s navigation. He paved his own path.

By the time he was ready to enter the agency world, he had the credentials to jump the corporate ladder and get a higher position than entry level. Cook continued to create his own way throughout his entire career in a series of improvisations and unorthodox tactics that landed him at the top.

He’s proof that you don’t need to path set out by your GPS.

All this being said, your GPS can still be helpful if you use it properly. Here’s how to leverage it to your success:

Use the Right One

I’m an Apple product puritan. My phone is an Apple. My tablet is an Apple. The laptop I write this on is an Apple.

I’ve noticed, however, that Apple’s built-in navigation on the iPhone is perhaps the worst GPS I’ve ever used. With the faulty direction of that app, I’ve ended up completely lost on dozens of occasions.

So you know what? I started using the Google Maps app and my navigation life changed for the better. I’m getting to places on time and with clarity. I’ve made my way through unknown cities and foreign places like I wouldn’t have been able to with Apple’s built-in navigation.

In our lives, there are so many voices that try to steer us. Family, friends, professors, mentors and strangers. Make sure you select the ones, or the one, that will navigate you to your dream destination.

Know When to Listen

As good as Google Maps is, sometimes I choose to ignore it.

You need to be able to do the same when you’re making your way through your career. Those family, friends, professor, mentors and strangers may provide helpful guidance, but there are times when you need to do what you feel is right.

Know when to ignore your GPS—the navigation path will always readjust to your pathway.

Ultimately, Use it to Keep Your Destination in Mind

The best use for GPSs is by far their ability to keep the final destination in mind. Even when you ignore your GPS at times, and create your own path, GPSs always have the end place in mind.

In order to fulfill your dreams, you have to know where you want to go. If you have no location, you have no intentional path to begin with.

Be sure to define your goals and dreams early in your career. When you’re ignoring the many voices trying to bend you into submission, you’re able to figure out where you want to go.

Once you define it, set the destination in your GPS, know when to make your own path and persist.

Here’s to rolling to the beat of your own drum,

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Career Tip: Ignore the GPS