Career choice: approach to new opportunities

Today, as I watched the sunrise that kept me from reading about the 50th anniversary of an Elton John album, it dawned on me that no two sunrises are ever the same and have never been the same.

Of course, sunrises from afar are old hat. You’ve got your eyes on the horizon, and if you keep them open long enough, a yellow disk will appear over the horizon, rising steadily into the sky—just not. Well, not quite like that. Today it was a beautiful orange-red and as soon as the disk appeared, just as the underside of the disk visibly detached itself from the horizon, the top of the disk disappeared into the clouds. It wasn’t a full disc sunrise today. It wasn’t golden. I’ll call customer service immediately.

No two sunrises are the same.

No two sunrises are the same.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Strange things, sunrises. My first thought was that if you got really close to a sunrise, you would die in a ball of flames from the sun’s heat. But of course you never get close to a sunrise because a sunrise needs a horizon to exist, and horizons are, by definition, far from where you are observing. Otherwise you just fly too close to the sun. The context is important. Sunrises need a horizon. However, they are also influenced by other contexts such as the surrounding weather conditions, clouds or the earth’s rotation. The sun appears again and again at different places on the horizon.

Sunrises are a powerful reminder that everything is happening in context, and trying to abstract all context is often a mistake. Careers happen in context. Careers generally require some admitting agent such as audience, client, customer or employer in order for us to do our job. Take one of these away and it affects our careers.

It’s common for us to be encouraged to think about our ambitions and career goals, or even follow our passions in the abstract. While these exercises may have value, ultimately they will amount to little beyond frustration if at some point they fail to connect with context.


The reality of the job market may not please the dream of making a fortune by becoming a Roman chariot maker. However, consideration of context can keep the dream alive if you’re encouraged to expand your offering a bit by locating near Buckingham Palace or a film studio.

The challenge is that the context of our careers is changing by as much, if not more, than a sunrise. In career work, all too often we encourage sober clients to envision the dawn of a new era. In the pre-dawn darkness we can only work with memories of sunrises or abstractions. It’s tempting to think of yellow discs rising from the center of our horizon.

The reality as today showed me was an orange disc that rose at about one o’clock (or 30 degrees) as I looked at my horizon. The reality is often very different from what we expect. The trick is to hold these pre-dawn thoughts as hypotheses to explore, and when the sun comes up, work from that point and explore the view it offers. Career choice: approach to new opportunities

Brian Lowry

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