Advice and Encouragement on Getting Started When Considering a Move in Your Career
A career, over a lifetime, has many ebbs and flows. So even those who embark upon it passionately will experience as many low times, professionally speaking, as high. That said, it’s worth it to wonder, why do these lulls occur, and how can they be turned more quickly into positive experiences?
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing”
– Abraham Lincoln
One message that that seems pervasive among those who have achieved a successful status often showcases – paradoxically — the important role failure has played. It seems common knowledge that there are great learning opportunities that arise from defeat, and that while winning is a great deal more fun, it does not seem to provide the same game-changing insights as mind-numbing failure. So, why is failure the ultimate “learning opportunity”?
Each individual enters the workforce with diverse life experience, education, and work ethic, along with a unique vision of success. A role that is intrinsically inspiring provides many opportunities to learn and grow. Yet new employees are expected to be accountable, quickly get up to speed and deliver in order to advance their careers. Added to this is that there often exists an inverse relationship in the training paradigm: the simpler the role, the more direct training is provided, yet higher-level and more complex roles require self-directed training.
Aside from larger corporations that tend to provide a variety of learning/development opportunities, the chance for actual manager-to-employer coaching and colleague-to-colleague training has all but disappeared from today’s productivity-focused work environments. So the path to success requires some entrepreneurial spirit, trial, and, in reality, a great deal of error. The good news? Errors help you fail, and, as noted above, are often seen as a necessary precursor to success.
If we look at industry, we find examples where success is presumed to come bundled as a package with lesser failures. For example, in pharmaceutical research, bringing one successful therapeutic product to market costs, on average, over a billion dollars. Those costs include substantial financial investments in other clinical research and products that do not make it to market. So there are many failures for each success story. The success within this industry necessitates “failing early,” so that valuable resources are available to be utilized for discoveries with higher probabilities of success.
Thus, in that realm, failure is a necessary part of the equation and successful businesses use both probability and science to build a track record of success.
“Ironically, in a challenging world, playing it safe is one of the riskiest things you can do”
-Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder
Looking at it from the perspective of an individual, it is also imperative to take risks in order to be on a successful trajectory. In fact, considering the experience of those with track records of exceptional career achievements, it seems success is rarely achieved without some degree of risk. Some risks will have positive results, and others will fail. It is important however that failures are utilized as empowering learning opportunities – i.e. to understand when it is time to invest in a new strategy, or perhaps focus on the next project. But when is the time right to invest one’s personal focus on finding a new role at work?
Research indicates that individuals are happiest in the proverbial career sweet spot: i.e. professional roles where strengths, passion and business needs intersect. Achieving that convergence is also an aspirational goal for forward-thinking employers who see the advantage in having the right employee matched to the right role. Of course, not all employees have that type of supervisor — added to which is the fact that it takes time and experience to explore different work environments, learn value-added skills and navigate different roles. This means most employees may spend a fair amount of their career in a job with a poor skill match, lacking a spiritual draw or with poorly aligned career objectives. Also, there are very few people who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up while still in high school. In fact, many mature professionals lament not knowing still. So getting to that sweet spot requires an investment of time in different roles and responsibilities. For many longing to have a meaningful career, it requires a commitment to self -training, lifelong learning and a willingness to take some informed risks along the way.
“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right to your purpose”
– Bishop T.D. Jakes
In order to find the right position, self-awareness is required to make that mental leap. It is important to understand when a role is just not the right fit. With this realization, a little courage may be required to overcome a fear of change, when it is clearly time to do just that: change course. The ability to embrace failure – the quiet recognition that your current job is way off-base for your strengths – can help build resilience in a focused manner toward future success. In order to learn, contribute and grow, it is best to stay in a role for a minimum of twelve months. Not only does this allow new acumen to be achieved, it also shows potential employers an ability to commit, stay and deliver within a role. When, with a high level of confidence, a position is understood to no longer be a good career match, it is time to begin a proactive job search.
“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets”
– Leonardo Da Vinci
The ingredients of a successful career path include both the pursuit of professional happiness and making informed investments in one’s career. So aspire to achieve that role where passion, talent and business needs align. A sense of failure may be a temporary, cautionary feeling that can be regarded as blessing in disguise, in that it will prevent you from staying too long in the wrong place. So go forward with audacity: that career sweet spot awaits.6