Guide Dogs for the Blind raises 800 puppies each year but only 300 dogs pass the training to become guides, far short of fulfilling the 1100 applications it receives. The dogs with superior health indicators and bone structure are held back to be used as breeders for future liters. Others start the training but for reasons of temperament, obedience, or other factors are determined not to be suitable candidates for a guide dog role. The term they use for those who don’t make it: “career change.” I love that!

Instead of saying that the dogs failed to fulfill their original destiny, a much more neutral term is used to simply describe that the role of becoming a dog for a blind person was not a good fit. Some of the career-changers become support dogs for those with PTSD. Others become beloved family pets. It’s not that they aren’t valuable or good at something but they don’t have the discipline or calmness to take on a life-or-death job. There is no shame in the dogs switching to a more appropriate role and it will probably enhance their happiness for the rest of their lives.

Why do we attach a stigma to people who make a “career change”? Some take on supervisory roles and suffer through them for years rather than make a move to another role where they would shine without having a staff. Others remain on paths outlined by others or determined by their college major, even though their passion lies elsewhere. People who rise up in an organization often hesitate to make lateral moves or even shift to less senior positions where their happiness and success would far outweigh the monetary gain they sacrificed to climb the ladder.

Having a good fit for the job you are performing is important for both dogs and humans. If you find yourself with a misalignment with work itself or your personality’s compatibility with it, embrace a career change and move on to something that makes your tail wag.

 

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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