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Many of us start out in jobs we never dreamed of or desired (or end up in disciplines far removed from the majors we pursued at university) simply because we ‘needed to have a job.’ Some, who are fortunate to come in through a Management Trainee programme (as they start on a higher rung), are also in roles they didn’t ever see themselves in. As time goes by we get frustrated because the gap between the direction we wanted to take and where we find ourselves has become too big. What do you do?

A few hard truths need to be realised: first, all jobs (and organisations) look very different from the ‘outside.’ I don’t think there is one typical marketing, HR or finance job; there are, however, a variety of roles (and combinations of roles) within a department. What we need to do is to master the assignment we are tasked with while looking to see what the other skill requirements are for lateral or vertical moves.

Within the first three years or so you would have developed a good enough sense of where you want to go – either in your current organisation or elsewhere. If you are contemplating a change of career, then your best bet would be to do it with your current employer. All other considerations (such as pay and benefits) aside, your energies must be deployed towards building a skill-set that attracts opportunities. Everything else follows.

There are many career role models to learn from. What you may wish to ask is: How they stayed ahead of the curve? How did they update their skills? What were some of the career risks they took? How did they invest in themselves?

There is no need to feel trapped by circumstances; instead, we should reassess our situation and apply creativity to make our way ahead.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner and executive coach.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on October 7, 2012.