During a recent meeting, a colleague shared a story about a leader in his previous employment stint, who would end all his speeches with the following statement …
“We all need to lengthen our stride!”
Do More Today Than Yesterday
The easy thing to do is to maintain the same pace each day. We go to work, we do what is expected, but we avoid going the extra mile. We’re conditioned to know that meeting expectations is good enough to remain in decent standing.
In fact, by doing what is explicitly stated in our job description, we’re likely to qualify for a raise and perhaps, even a bonus. Our boss might actually appreciate this Steady Eddie way of working.
However, there is a notable downside to mediocrity. When we do only what is necessary, we slowly begin to lose ground. The fact that we’re falling behind is often subtle, and we might realize a bit late that the rules of the game have changed or are no longer valid.
The Banker’s Story
At times, we are so comfortable and distracted with our current work that we miss new opportunities as they arise. Before we know it, the current work situation may disappear.
Many years ago, I met an individual through basketball officiating, who was climbing the corporate ladder rapidly at his bank. When I met him, he was a branch manager, but he was soon offered a VP position at the company’s Boston headquarters. His salary soared to $175,000, and he was in line for lucrative performance-based bonuses.
I remember asking him what he was doing to advance his professional development skills. He responded by saying he was way too busy with day-to-day activities to focus on anything but his current work.
Since he did not see the need to improve his professional skills, it seemed to me, he was a little too comfortable with the current situation and felt this position would be his forever.
Then … the 2008 housing market crash happened!
Within a few months, his bank started to downsize. During one of our conversations, he nervously mentioned the massive company layoffs were getting very close to him.
It happened! In early 2009, he was offered a 60-day “see you later” package!
He was in shock!
I remember, he applied for hundreds of jobs, but nothing materialized. Eventually, he had to accept a call center position that paid $35,000, taking it only because it offered the healthcare benefits which he and his family sorely needed.
Lengthen All the Time
The point I’m wanting to make with the banker’s story is we should constantly focus on improving our skills, especially when all seems right.
It’s unwise to try to pick up the pace when we have zero options on the table.
Here are some ways you can lengthen your stride …
- Seek professional development opportunities, such as certifications (i.e., PMP, Certified ScrumMaster, ITIL v4, CISSP, SHRM-CP, and so on). This advice holds true even if you have to pay for the training on your own. You can look at this as an insurance policy in case an unexpected situation occurs.
- Consider earning an advanced degree in your field. Nearly all university programs are offered online, so you can learn from anywhere. There are also many competitive, but affordable programs, and you can pay as you go. Zero debt!
- Join a network of professionals to learn about employment opportunities. It’s true, some of the best jobs are never posted, so take the time to meet business leaders who carry significant weight with the hiring decisions.
As we saw in the banker example, it is unwise to assume our current work assignment will last forever. Thus, we should continually keep our eyes open to new career advancements and professional development opportunities. The fact is, there are too many factors that can affect one’s employment.
The bottom line is that it’s far better to be proactive with your career opportunities when you still have viable options to consider.