Are You Sprinting to a Disappointing Career?

sprinting in your career

Friends with tunnel vision. Only interested in joining a company that is “just a year away from an IPO.” Do you know anyone like this — running hard, hoping to hit the tech lottery? I do. A friend recently explained that he was mid-career and needed to have a big hit quick.

Unfortunately, he said the same thing 10 years and five jobs ago.

But here is the thing — most careers are not quick and big hits are unlikely. This is why sprinting from job to job, hoping for a gold medal will most likely leave you empty handed and out of breath.

These job sprinters can spend years chasing a quick win — only to never find it. The end result is disappointment and a career that is not really advancing.

Too many people think of jobs as a short race — where there is a winner at the finish line. But what happened to working towards milestones on a longer journey to success?

To achieve something meaningful, you need to know where you are heading and be willing to train hard to get there. This requires a long-distance mindset.

You commit yourself to the work because you know what you are after.

And you will have the opportunity to learn more when you stay at a company for a longer period of time. But like a marathon, you will need replenishments along the way.

Here is what has worked for me:

1. Set long-term goals
Your goals are the finish line. So once you know what you are running towards, you can move confidently and strategically in the right direction — rather than impulsively jumping from one company to the next.

2. Embrace group runs
Run along side other achievers — a strong team with shared values — who are also thinking about the long journey. Sometimes they will support you, and other times you will support them. But you will always learn from each other.

3. Cross-train
Committing to a company for the long haul builds confidence and trust for you and your team. As you achieve meaningful results, you will be rewarded with new projects and responsibilities — ultimately developing a broader set of skills and allowing you to work with a broader group of people.

4. Plan for recovery
Maintain peak performance by taking breaks when needed. This is more than just vacation time — it is about stepping away from your daily tasks to pursue your passions. Look for meaningful ways to do this, whether it is taking on a new project, mentoring others, or enrolling in a class.

Building a career that has longevity requires endurance.

But this endurance will not only lead to a lasting career — it will lead to one that is sustainably happy. When you look back at the race, you will see the effort and grit that you put in. And you will feel proud of what you have accomplished.

How do you plan for a long career?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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Comments

  1. Paul H.

    This is an interesting perspective. Certainly, there’s much to be said for the value of people with career longevity and endurance. However, there’s also evidence that advancement – be it in responsibilities and/or compensation – happens more quickly when a person is willing to take a chance and move to a new opportunity. For example: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cameronkeng/2014/06/22/employees-that-stay-in-companies-longer-than-2-years-get-paid-50-less/#433147cee07f. Perhaps the macro- circumstances have changed since 2014 and this is no longer as valid as it once was.

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  2. Mary Shinabarger

    Very interesting indeed! Both assumptions probably have holes in them. Neither view takes into account the massive upheavals life can bestow on some people. Illness or businesses closing or downsizing can throw a career right off track. Such as the Michigan economy did to many. We were hard hit with large employers leaving the state and or downsizing severely. It happens everywhere. Maybe like me, you find that “perfect” place you want to be and can imagine yourself there forever, and you are let go due to downsizing. This has happened to me, not once, but twice in the Michigan market. One time I could not further my career in the particular field because I had a non-compete clause, causing the beginning focusing my career elsewhere. A lot of false starts for sure. And I am curious, does everyone know fresh out of college, or for that matter, before starting college, what the trajectory of their career will be? What I have observed is many do not. How many people still work in the same career they were at when they were 20? 30? 40? I am going to guess there definitely are some, but far from all. Some people have a rougher start in life. Some people maybe didn’t have the same opportunities as others. My biggest take away has been that the conditions of how and where we are raised matter a lot. The legacy our families pass down to us matter a lot. But they do not have to be the rule we get stuck in. We do not have to be a statistic. I think of that classic Eddie Murphy movie (yes I think it is a classic by now) Trading Places. I think just about anyone given the right opportunities and support can succeed quite well. You might just need to fight for your place at the table more than others. And for those of us who have been blessed with a little cleaner, clearer path, we might just want to offer some mercy and grace to – and even opportunities – to those who did not. Everyone has a story, everyone deserves a voice, every human being has the capacity to excel. Let’s have discussions about how to help overcome that wrong turn in a career, a false start, a college grad who can’t seem to start or don’t know where to start.

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