Jan aspired to be the COO. It wasn’t something she had planned on early in her career, but when she got to mid-management, she was put in charge of a major initiative to help fix an operationally deficient business unit. She found she was good at identifying quick wins and quickly making a difference. She began to be recognized for her work and was given more of the same. Her mentor told her she should think about the COO role in her future. She felt honored that he thought of her that way, and the recognition invigorated her to strongly consider that path. Pretty soon, the vision crystallized in her mind, and she began to articulate that, one day, she wanted to be the COO.
This sounds like the beginning of a story with a happy ending. Jan capitalized on recognition, took in the counsel of a mentor, and began to vocalize her aspirations. But there was one thing she didn’t know until it was too late. Jan had the wrong goal. When she became COO, she immediately knew she was in the wrong job. It was not what she anticipated it to be.