One thing that parenthood teaches you is to think in longer terms. Things you’ve asked yourself and answered in timeframes which ranged from minutes to days now change to months and years. When will my baby start walking? In about 8 months. When will I take my son to his first football game? In about 5 years from now. When will I ever sleep a full night again? Maybe never, perhaps in 2-3 years, surely not now.
But in addition to teaching one how to be patient, this longer term thinking mode is extremely important for your career. Why? Because your career is your life. And it is long- hopefully we’re talking decades into the future. And some decision you’re contemplating should be reviewed with this longer time frame in mind. And while no decision is irreversible, some career decisions are extremely hard to change after fact. In fact, in an ideal world, every decision effects 3 timelines: an immediate, short-medium turn and a long run.
For instance, when I decided to enlist to the Naval academy I was nearly 18, and knew the immediate impact would be that I will be going through intense training in the next 18 months, where I will be tested on a near- daily basis and pushed to the limits. I also knew the mid-range timeframe I will spend twice as much time in the military service as my peers (in Israel a military service of 3 years in mandatory, as a cadet in the naval academy intending to become a naval officer I was signing for more than 6 years of duty). I had no idea about the long term impact on my life and my career. During that time I’ve made friends for life, met and started dating my wife (who’s also ex. Navy) and acquired mental and professional skills which have had a profound impact on my career. I had no way of knowing any of these great things will happen, but I knew that it was going to be difficult and hopefully a rewarding process. During my naval career I’ve made many career choices which seemed intuitive at the time but made a great difference in the future- such as my decision to move back to the naval academy after serving onboard missile ships to serve as course leader in advanced tactical course- a decision which at the time made sense since the academy was situated next to the best windsurfing beach in Israel and I’ve knew this position will provide some free time to windsurf on the job…
As my career moved on I’ve found again and again that long term thinking and decision making is much more critical than short and even medium turn decision. When I’ve concluded my military service I had no profession per se’ so I’ve started working at a small firm offering technical writing services to big defense manufacturers. I’ve had decent knowledge of English and editing skills and we were compiling manuals for naval systems, which made sense professionally as these were the systems I was operating during my military service. We then started offering training services and I’ve found that I was using many skills I’ve acquired during my service – most of which, my instruction skills.
Another advantage was that I was well versed since I was reading primarily in English since the age of 15 -the reason being that I loved windsurfing magazines (we are talking pre-internet nineties) and they were written in English. I won’t describe my entire career here, but would like to touch upon one more point to demonstrate long term thinking. During my tenure with the defense industry (in several roles- technical writer, instructor, specification team leader) I’ve noticed how difficult it was to deliver successful defense projects- timelines were always tight, shoestring budgets and very demanding customers. The industry as a whole was suffering from budgets cuts and it did not look like it was growing. Also, I’ve found that there was an inherent preference towards engineers, and since I was only a History graduate there seemed to a definite glass ceiling. I’ve thought about where this industry will be in five years and where I will be within it. I came to the conclusion that to move ahead the only way was to either go back to the navy for 20 more years and come out an admiral, or go to engineering college and get an engineering degree- both were unlikely at the time. So I’ve and decided it was time to look elsewhere and found that the homeland security industry was thriving, and moved to a company delivering large scale projects in this area (border security, airport security etc.). After working in that industry for 4 years I’ve noticed it was going through the same cycle as the defense industry- budgets were shrinking and competition was brutal which drove prices down. By that time I’d moved to more business oriented positions so I figured my skills could be applied just about anywhere. I’ve started looking for another growing industry and identified the cybersecurity industry as the next meteor. Moving between industries is never easy but since I was not a technical person it was easier for me to move- the skills I acquired along the way are general ones (sales, marketing, business development) so I’m not bound to any specific profession or industry. I’m also not bound to the naval/ defense industry anymore, so I guess my decisions made a decade ago made sense in the end.
And one last note- you really start embracing long term thinking when you become a parent. When almost every decision you could have a long lasting impact on your infants’ life you tend to slow down and carefully consider many things you took for granted before- starting from which food you buy to the language you use. And that’s a good thing, because if you would focus on short term decision-making you will be stuck in an endless decision- reaction cycle. What you want to be doing is to think- is this beneficial to my child 10-20 years from now? This type of thinking will elevate you above the daily struggles and allow you to focus on what’s important in life.