Do you need a career adventure? Everyone should have one every once in a while. Sure, it is possible to have too many career adventures, but most people are more likely to have too few.
What is a career adventure? It usually involves some kind of change, but change is not enough. Doing the same job for a different employer – perhaps for more money or a better environment – or getting promoted within your own organization may be career progression, but not necessarily career adventure. Merriam-Webster says that the word “adventure” has three primary meanings: “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks,” “an exciting or remarkable experience,” and “an enterprise involving financial risk”. At least one of these elements is present in any career adventure, but, again, they are not necessarily enough. Quitting your job to take up mountain climbing would certainly involve danger and unknown risk, and might even be an exciting or remarkable experience, but unless your goal is to become a professional mountain climber, it wouldn’t do anything for your career.
A career adventure combines the element of raw adventure with at least the possibility of career progression. For example, three weeks ago I started my latest career adventure. I stepped in as Director of Academic Support at a law school in California. (Attentive constant readers might have noticed my recent cross-country airplane flights and road trip, and reference to my new location.) Is this an undertaking involving danger and unknown risk? In some ways it is. The move was so sudden, and would have been so disruptive to the rest of my family, that we decided that my wife and children will remain behind at our home in Virginia, at least for this next school year. I don’t know how this separation is going to affect them, or me, for that matter. Plus, the new position marks a professional shift – I left a career counseling position for one in academic advising – as well as an increase in responsibility. I welcomed both, but objectively I have to acknowledge that such significant changes often carry unknown risks.
At the same time, taking this new position has definitely been an exciting and remarkable experience, so it has been an adventure that way, too. And it does provide career progression for me, giving me, besides the increased responsibility, the opportunity to consult with law students earlier in their development. Over the past couple of years, as I counseled students on their career development, I had come to believe that I could provide them with greater benefits and better chances for long-term career success if I could work with them sooner, before they started to get their job application materials together. Better grades, more wholehearted engagement, and more well-chosen courses and externships may do a lot more for a student’s resume than choosing the right font or wording.
If career progression is so important, what’s the need for adventure? Surely some people advance gradually and comfortably throughout their careers without courting danger or excitement. True enough, but have those people all progressed as far as they could? Did they follow the most satisfying path they could have? If we don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zones from time to time, we deprive ourselves of opportunities to see just how much we are capable of – just how far we can go.
Sometimes the only way to figure out how far we can go is to get there. Getting there is what makes the adventure: the distant origin of the word “adventure” is the Latin word “adventus”, which means “arrived”.