3 Career-Planning Insights I Learned by Walking Across Spain

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Guest Post by Victor Prince

I am delighted and honored to host a guest blog post by Victor Prince on the same day that his latest book, The Camino Way, launches. Victor—who travels the world speaking and consulting—brings his wealth of leadership development experience and insights to readers as he outlines seven leadership lessons learned during his 500-mile trek across Spain—timely lessons that apply to leaders with less picturesque but equally important journeys.

Victor’s post provides a preview of the richness and depth you can expect from The Camino Way.  Enjoy!


A few years ago, I walked across Spain along the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. I hike and bike trails for a hobby, so I did the Camino mainly for fun. My Camino experience was unlike any other trail, however. The combination of alone time plus meeting other hikers from around the world was a unique recipe for introspection. Here are three lessons I learned on my Camino that have helped me in my career. Hopefully they can help you… without the need to walk across Spain.

  1. Seek Strangers to Find Yourself – We tend to work with people like us. Within an organization, we share a culture. Within a profession, we share interests, skills and experiences. When you get on the Camino, the only thing you share with people is that you somehow are able, willing and crazy enough to do the Camino. The Camino is like the UN in hiking boots representing many countries, careers, ages, and other demographics. Because of that diversity, when someone asks what you do for work, you may have to explain from scratch. Things like job titles and company names do not automatically convey a background like they do at home. Those discussions can provide clarifying moments. As I described my career to strangers, I heard myself telling a story I had been living but not seeing. I did not see a common link between my many job changes. The clarifying moment came when I walked with a Californian who told me about his decision to leave a lucrative career in advertising to find true happiness as a high school English teacher. That made me want to be a teacher. Then I realized I had been teaching throughout my career. Teaching was the one common theme hidden across all my jobs. In fact, it was the thing I enjoyed most in all those jobs. That insight has helped me focus my post-Camino career on teaching. I now get enormous job satisfaction by teaching others through the books I write and the speeches and training courses I deliver.
  2. Sew Seeds of Partnership – Through our careers, we meet thousands of people. Colleagues, clients, conferences, suppliers… it adds up. If you are smart, when you make a real connection with someone, you stay connected with them via tools like LinkedIn. I found out how connections like that could pay off while I was on the Camino. When I worked at a large bank, I was part of a handful of former consultants who, on the side from our day jobs, taught a class on problem-solving and communication skills. The students loved it and I loved teaching it. When I changed jobs, I made a point to keep in touch with my fellow trainers. Fast forward several years and while I was hiking the Camino, I received an email from a training manager at a big name company. She wanted to know if I could come and do a similar training for her company in two weeks since their scheduled trainer dropped out at the last minute, leaving her in quite a bind. (She found me on the web since the training is a niche that not many people do.) Leaning against my backpack in a café in rural Spain, I knew I couldn’t help her so I scrambled to figure out some reply. I remembered my friend Mike from my old bank training days was still doing that training. I forwarded the email to him, describing my Camino logistics and asking him for help. He replied immediately and said he could take everything from there and would brief me when I got back. Mike covered that client’s training emergency so well the client wanted him to do a repeat session a month later, at a company retreat in a resort in Hawaii, no less. And guess which lucky, recently returned Camino hiker Mike called on to deliver that training in Hawaii? Mike and I have been doing that training together ever since.
  3. I Walked Across Spain, I Can Do That – Your vacations can be more than time off. They can be great personal development opportunities to prove you can do things you didn’t think you could do. If you use your off time to conquer a challenge, you will find yourself stronger for it, not just personally, but professionally. Since my Camino, I have often used the “I walked across Spain, I can do this” mantra to get myself through a challenge. By doing something as crazy as walking across a country, I realized that I could do a lot of things that broke the mold of boundaries defined by myself or other people. I had long had “write a book” on my ‘bucket list’ of things I wanted to do. After I got back from the Camino, the surge of confidence spurred me to start writing down one idea I had had for a while. That idea turned into my first book, which I co-authored with Mike Figliuolo, (yes, that same Mike). The success of that book spurred me to write my newest book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain, which is now on sale.

Years after I finished walking it, my Camino continues to provide. I hope you find your own Camino some day – or it finds you.

 

Victor Prince is a leadership author, speaker and trainer. He has trained students across 13 time zones in leadership, strategy and communications skills. Learn more at www.victorprince.com.

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