Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself in a bunch of conversations with people about their careers. Some are thinking about their next immediate move and what they need to learn to get there. Others were thinking out 10 or more years and are working on plotting the exact best route to get there. It’s this second group that is hard for me to relate to. I’ve never (for better or worse) been the type of person to decide what it is I want to be doing in a decade from now.
I consider myself a river person. I believe that a river person thinks about their career a journey, making decisions at key junctions, often taking them on an entirely new and exciting course. Sometimes those junctions are accidental, others they’ve worked towards creating. Nonetheless, if you look at my own career trajectory, it’s easy to see I’m a river person. It’s all about awesome experiences, new challenges and being open to moving outside of your comfort zone to learn and practice something totally new and foreign.
Point people, on the other hand define a point in the future and work carefully and strategically towards getting to that point, with little deviation along the way. They’re purpose driven and always thinking about what experiences they need to gain to help them achieve their goals. I’ve seen people suffer through jobs they hated, all for the experience of doing “X”. I’ve always admired these types of people, but as a river person — I’m pretty happy.
Why in the hell does this matter? I think it matters when talking with someone about their career, to understand what camp their in. And if you’re a people manager — this is a critical thing for you to understand, in order to best help your direct reports grow and achieve new heights (no matter how they may get there). I think it’s always important to share your experiences and beliefs — but I always do it with the context of being a river person. I think it makes your advice/perspective way more useful, and less foreign that way.