During a visit to Argentina, my husband and I were walking on top of the Iguaçu Falls (pronounced ee-gawh-SOO) foot bridge with hundreds of other tourist.  Our journey to the falls included searching for various bird species unique to the region.  Parakeets, Toucans, Cuckoos and Parrots were just a few of the most popular.  We were also cognizant of the potential encounter with a Tegu Lizard.  The Tegu lizard is one of the largest lizards and is not known to be poisonous or dangerous; however as with any reptile or animal it will protect itself if threatened.

At one interval, the group stopped to gaze into the distance at the potential spotting of one of the beautiful birds.  While cameras were flashing, I stood aside looking at the ravine in front of me.  To my surprise, not more than 10 feet away was a Tegu Lizard.  I stood transfixed by the beauty of the animal while consciously aware of the potential danger, if I made an unexpected move.  When my husband joined me, he confirmed that it was indeed a Tegu lizard and replied “good looking out”.

As I work with professionals at all levels, attempting to maneuver the fluid waters of their careers, I am often reminded of the interlude at Iguaçu Falls.  So often the focus is on the next opportunity, losing sight of what is happening in our current environment, and then surprised when we encounter obstacles, road blocks and experience missed opportunities.  This is often referred to as career derailment.

Career derailment happens when we lose focus on our current roles and operate on auto pilot.  It can be avoided by following a few simple tips:

1)      Ensure that you are performing at the appropriate level

2)      Maintain relevance in your existing field

3)      Build vertical and horizontal relationships and align with the organizational culture

4)      Seek honest  feedback

Simultaneously, while managing your current job, create and manage your career blueprint.   Your career blueprint should include the following strategic activities:

1)      Short and long term career objectives

2)      Assessing your current skills and building competencies for each role on your blueprint

3)      Establish strategic partnerships through networking, mentorships and coaching

4)      Manage the risk of career derailment

As you travel on your professional journey, remember Iguaçu Falls – while gazing into the distance at your future possibilities; maintain focus on your current environment.  Be prepared for your encounter with the Tegu Lizard.