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A frequent question on careers asked of HR professionals has to do with how one should develop one’s career – should it be developed within a narrow band in a specialised area or should one widen the scope?

The simple answer would be: “What do you want to do?”, but that’s not what they want to hear.

The problem with asking others for their advice or opinions is that they tell us things we may not want to follow. The clever ones ask the questions for themselves (remember, “Questions ARE the answer”) and figure out what to do accordingly.
The starting point should be: “What do I want to do?” then, “Why do I want to do it?” then, “How do I go about doing it?” to, finally, “What resources do I need and who can help me?” By following this sequence, you should have a much clearer picture of what you want.

Let’s take an example: suppose you are an engineer; what career goal do you have? Do you want a lifetime of engineering pursuits or do you wish to get into general management? The next question would be, “Why do I want to do it?”

Maybe your passion is in pure engineering projects and the challenges they bring. In this case, you would probably look to a career in an engineering firm doing large-scale projects. On the other hand, you may develop a liking for general management; in this case, your engineering firm would love to have you in a leadership role or you could move to another opportunity.

Mid-career professionals need to decide between staying within a comfort zone (where they know everything) and going out on a limb by adding parts to their experience that broaden their portfolios and open up a wider spectrum of opportunities. In any case, you are the best one to decide.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is General Manager, HR, at a multinational company.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 1, 2012