“You are the captain of your own ship; don’t let anyone else take the wheel.” Michael Josephson
“You are the captain of your own ship; don’t let anyone else take the wheel.” Michael Josephson

Careers aren’t as linear as they used to be. We have to be very determined about our careers, always taking inventory of our present state as well as having goals for the future. We have to take ownership of our career success. Our managers and organizational leaders all play a role, but ultimately we are the captains of our own ships. In an ideal world, the organization and leaders in the organization are very supportive of career development, but most often this is not case. We can love our jobs, but have “horrible bosses” or have great bosses within a dysfunctional organization. No matter what the circumstance, we have to be committed to obtaining new skills even if the organization does not provide development resources.

We often draw a blank and shut down when training resources are limited, but there are other ways we can develop ourselves when there is not an opportunity for formal training. As academic and library professionals, we have a wealth of knowledge in our grasp. We have an advantage to continuous learning that others do not, so this is a perk we should definitely maximize. We don’t think about it, but we also have a network of brilliant colleagues at our fingertips. How easy would it be to shadow a colleague for a day to gain new skills? This is something that has little to no cost, but could have tremendous rewards. Imagine informally learning something that is a requirement for the next step of a career!

Networking (in the non-schmoozing fashion), can be a great way to expand one’s career. We also forget that our outside lives provide opportunities to learn new skills. For example, we may want to learn finance skills, but don’t have the opportunity to do so at work. Being a member of the PTA, church, or a professional organization may provide the opportunity to develop this skill in a less threatening setting.

To develop our careers we also have to do a better job of knowing ourselves. Understanding yourself is one of the most important aspects of career development. For example, if power, fame, and wealth are part of our core values, working for Save the Whales is probably not going to work out. Conversely, if family, world peace, and humility are part of a person’s core values, then being a corporate raider isn’t going to work out. Nothing is wrong with either set of values. Interests may change, but usually the core values that make us who we are don’t change. Essentially, we will not be happy in a career that is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole! Studies show that when our core values align with our jobs, we are more engaged, and we can be more fulfilled at work. It is important to take time to really think about what matters to us. We have to take control.

The way we think about work has changed. Things move much much more quickly than they have in the past, and career paths have changed. No matter how old you are think about how much things have changed in a 10-year span. We have to be diligent about staying relevant in order to stay employable. With the rapid change we are experiencing we must stay flexible. The skills we have today may not be relevant tomorrow. We have to keep learning, keep our values at the forefront, and keep our skills sharp. In order to navigate through the rough waters, we have to be in control.

This quote says it best: “You are the captain of your own ship; don’t let anyone else take the wheel.” Michael Josephson

By Lisa D. Conley, M. Ed
Organizational Development Manager
Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia


  1. Well stated! I recently accepted a position with a non profit organization that does amazing work in my community. While the salary and H.R. benefits are less than I am used to, the actual benefits are immeasurable. I am proud of my work, of my colleagues, and have a greater sense of professional well-being than I have ever known. Ms. Conley nails it when she says that understanding yourself is one of the most important aspects of career development.

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