I was out with a married friend of mine on our way to a party, and I had to ask her one question out of curiosity, and because I had a theory to prove: "Six years ago, did you know that you were going to marry your husband? I mean, how did you know he was the one?"
She was too busy, focused on the road, but she turned, gave me a quick, confused glance and said: "There is no way on Earth I could have possibly known that, because we didn't even talk then."
My friend's husband did not come into her life through strategic planning or consideration. They were simply classmates in school, and marriage was the last thing on her mind.
She did not wake up one morning, look at the mirror and say: "Yes. I've made up my mind I'm going to marry him and that's that."
As a matter of fact, no amount of planning, strategic thinking, or analysis could have resulted in her figuring out that she would end up with this particular man.
While this little anecdote might seem devoid of any business element, I discovered there is a correlation between finding a spouse and a desired career path.
From a certain perspective, finding a fulfilling career is similar to finding the perfect spouse.
No one is born in life knowing exactly who they are going to marry. Most times, our spouse is someone we did not expect to end up with. So why is there an expectation for us to know what we exactly want to do in our professional lives from the very start?
Some of the happiest and successful people had a clear vision and plan of what they wanted to do with their professional lives and where they would end up in their careers. And yet they ended up doing something completely different.
For instance, I earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies, a master's in management, and I planned to be in the communication field for the rest of my life. And yetI now find more joy, and feel more rewarded in my writing career, and running my small fashion business.
I have heard similar stories of talented and successful people, who I consider my mentors, and now I believe that traditional career planning is not so great after all.
The way we perceive career planning should not be one where we think about and know all the answers beforehand, but more like a journey to finding our soulmates.
Choosing a career without any real life experience is like picking a spouse from a catalogue based on physical features.
Regardless of the countless hours you spend thinking about something, you can never know exactly how you feel about it until you give it a try.
For instance, as much as I loved how the iPhone looked, and regardless of the number of articles I read about its great features, I did not know that I would actually hate using it, until I gave it a try, and decided it was not the phone for me.
When it comes to careers, there are countless fields and options we have not been exposed to, just waiting to be discovered by us. When we narrowly plan our career path beforehand, we could be missing out on great career options.
How do we get ourselves into these options? Through different experiences. During college, or after work hours, volunteer, get an internship, or simply attend workshops of the fields that interest you.
The more options you are exposed to, the more contacts and relationships you will make, and the easier it would be for you to know what you want to do with your life.
So there it is. When it comes to career planning, traditional methods are not so perfect after all. Multiple trials and great exposure help to narrow down the horizon towards that great dream job.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi