The problem with career and professional growth is that nothing hurts.
It is a terrible and mean disease: everything is OK, nothing hurts, you get paid, some current issues are being resolved, and you are slowly climbing up the steps of the Maslow pyramid to the level where food and comfort are no longer the main tasks in life.
The vacation is arranged, the mortgage is being paid, your children go to a good nursery/school… or you have skilfully convinced yourself that this level is enough for you. And your progress gradually flattens out, the tasks, responsibilities, and therefore revenues are not growing as fast as they used to when you just started.
If you want to understand where you currently are and why you are still there — let’s check a short list of 5 items and see if you are healthy as a professional.
Five symptoms of your career’s serious disease:
Everything is good now — you grew into the comfort zone
You are toxic to people around
You are invisible for those who make decisions about your career
You are unreasonably sure: you work where you need to
You are not sure your boss is interested in your growth
1. Everything is fine
Incredible as it may seem, everything is never fine for successful people. Something is always bothering them somewhere; money is lacking for some projects, etc. Radislav Gandapas drew a perfect line between the ‘successful’ and the ‘unsuccessful.’
More successful people are willing to endure some temporary difficulties or restrictions for a better tomorrow.
First earn, then buy. First the effort, then the result. Sometimes even something ‘bad’ first to get the result and all the ‘good.’
‘Bad’ now, ‘good’ later
Unsuccessful people are all the opposite: first ‘good,’ then ‘bad.’
Lacking money, they take something non-vital on credit now, only to spend years on a limited budget later: instant ‘good’ for a long ‘bad’ or ‘passable’.
Apart from the obvious idea, Gandapas made an important footnote: the current ‘bad’ in the first case is often much better (of a higher level) than the current ‘good’ in the second one. That is, for an entrepreneur or a businessman always lacking something for another project or hypothesis test, the current standard of living is much higher than the standard of living for people with small incomes, but with the latest iPhone on credit.
It’s the same with a career: there are two options.
Get up and act right now, sign up for a seminar, start studying, go on a business trip to get a more interesting position, project, team
Everything is fine now, right? So just sit and wait until it magically gets better by itself.
It won’t get better all by itself. It doesn’t work like that. A career doesn’t push itself; it is being pushed.
You must not grow into the comfort zone.
2. You are toxic to people around
Criticism or trolling speaks more about the critic than the object of it. Take, for example, the Internet, where in fact you may know nothing about a person you are speaking of. Without external information, a projection mechanism turns on and we unconsciously attribute something personal to an external event or individual.
People react to trolling or unfair (in their opinion) criticism (without verified facts or reasonable arguments) categorically: they put you in the ‘ignore list’ with a ‘bad karma’ mark.
‘What can you expect of him?’ — this is the end of any career. Think about it. What you really wanted to say or had in mind exists in your head only. And in other’s minds you are on a wrong list. A list which they drop when assigning a project, when looking for an opinion to take into account or a person to be entrusted with a customer or a team.
Cracked a joke? Snapped? Let it out? Feeling better? One down. Your career is infected. Let’s proceed.
3. You are invisible for those who make decisions about your career
Worse than “What can you expect of him?” is only the question “Who is this anyway?”
Imagine that your personal record as a simple folder. And some people you know nothing about put marks on this folder and bring it to those you’ve never seen. And then those take the folder (with your 3-year old CV) without even opening it and look only at the minuscule marks on the cover:
[Missed a meeting]
[Was late for a presentation]
[Didn’t stay to help]
[Was rude with a concierge]
Or even worth — there are no marks. That is, they hired you, they put your CV in the folder, and NOTHING else has EVER changed. There are no auto updates for a CV.
Imagine? You think the reality is different? You think the moment a vacancy opens, the director connects to the Worldwide Network of Justice, keeping a record of all your merits and that your extra-clever hard-won codeline? Not funny, by the way. Judging by what you are doing right now to let your boss and his boss be aware of you, you are absolutely sure that the universe will take care of you. Oh, yeah, right, to take care of you is its sole purpose.
You’re infected with invisibility.
4. You are unreasonably sure: you work where you need to
No one grows in our company. We have a well-established structure, there are no new projects, employees are appointed only to substitute those who left, and it is not clear on what grounds…
Stop right there. Whom are you telling this?
Me? In my first 7 years of working almost without holidays, constantly studying something new, trying to do everything I could reach to, changing companies, I grew up from a testing engineer to a technology director at a dream-company in our industry, to afterwards leave to lead my own business. Do I look like a person to believe your story? Your parents may believe it (no other choice) + so-called ‘friends,’ who you feed with that sad malarkey.
Why do you take this particular position in this particular company? Are you sure that your department or project generates company profits?
Are you sure that in case of a merger your position won’t be cut in favor of the same position in another company? Let’s put it simpler: what is your company’s last year EBITDA?
And compared to another similar company? Or just simply, to which expenditure item and the budget does your project belong? How healthy and currently developing is the system you tied your professional future with?