Career Planning: “Life is what happens when making other plans.”

My college friend, Mike, recently posted that quote on Facebook when noting that he had spent 20 years at his current organization.  The quote made famous by John Lennon but likely said by others before him epitomizes the modern career challenge for those that have “decent” careers.
Mike was such a talent that he was asked by our college administrators to put his hat in the ring for the Rhodes Scholarship. Most people who apply for the Rhodes do not need someone to urge them to do so because they typically have the requisite ambition level to do so on their own. Not Mike. While he was passionate about things he cared about which seemed to lead to success, he didn’t spend time figuring out what to do next. Not a bad idea when young.  
Initially, Mike did some interesting non-profit work in Central America. He then came back to the states to work for a non-profit in Connecticut. Not that we discussed it but his friends would have predicted that Mike’s career path would lead him to the head of that non-profit unless he decided to run for state office in Connecticut.
I remember a lunch with Mike – one of those great Italian restaurants in New Haven – about 15 years ago. Mike didn’t love his work and was thinking about leaving but didn’t know where to direct his career passion. At the time, his career success was reasonably on track as he received expected promotions. He said that he was “thinking about a career change” but he didn’t have career direction.
I do know the non-profit world suffered in the 2000s. Post 9/11, many of Connecticut’s charitable contributions dried up outside of contributions to 9/11 victims, particularly those from Fairfield County.  Then, of course, the recession set in and contributions really took a hit.  Mike mentioned this in passing sometime around 2010. I think it was his explanation for why he still had the same job title at the same organization that he did in 2000.  Again he noted that he was “planning to change his career”.
Mike’s Facebook quote was sad as it conveyed a clear message of regret. He had been “planning” to career change for years. Learn from Mike’s lesson.