Many of us senior marketing and sales executives grew our careers at a time when we really knew very little about all the opportunities out there. We migrated to Big Brands like Proctor and Gamble or large agencies.

We mapped out our careers much like Columbus mapped out his path to Asia; he based all of his planning on what was known versus embracing the unknown. The good thing is that he discovered more than he ever expected.

Becoming Your Own Career Navigator

I believe that most people that embrace discovery and are able to continue to move forward when their original path begins to fade are the career navigators who come to more riches than they ever expected.

If you have found yourself or find yourself on a new, more solitary path, embrace it! Many of my brethren have run from it, trying to find that corporate ladder again. They work with recruiters and hire resume specialists and coaches in order to work their way back in. But before doing that, explore the alternatives and be a career navigator.

Your corporate experience is a benefit to other businesses; that’s why so many of us move into consulting. But you may find that a totally new business is a better match still. Maybe the budgets aren’t as big as your previous life but the decision-making freedom you have makes up for it. There’s not the secure paycheck and cheap insurance, but neither is there a boss with ridiculous expectations.

Look around you at all the small to mid-sized businesses, start-ups, and Private Equity Groups investing and be a career navigator creating a new path for yourself toward discovering what you really enjoy. I’ve worked with startups, corporations, and PEGs and found all those companies to have different flavors, expectations, and needs. All had their good points and their bad edges, but they had one thing in common―I enjoyed the role the majority of the time. The variety of experiences that path provided me helped shape where I believe I fit and what I enjoy doing while evolving my self-perception.

Like Columbus searching for a better trade route to the riches of Asia and then finding an even richer path, I look back and realize that I am where I am now because I allowed myself to go off the beaten path. Could I discover a corporate ladder again and want to climb it? Not likely. As my own career navigator, I don’t take those calls anymore. Every time I try to imagine myself all suited up and in yet another meeting, it’s just not that appealing right now.

After my last startup, I realized I enjoyed the smaller size, control, and ability to shift resources faster than at a big organization. I felt a more personal connection with all those around me. I’ve embraced small business. A space I excel in and enjoy is helping those fellow entrepreneurs struggling to get experienced marketing and sales strategies and tactics that they can implement. The budgets are small but the gratitude and connection is great. The income is good too.

Be your own career navigator and explore alternate paths of employment throughout your career. You may realize the original plan was just the first step to finding what enriches you.