The Career Lifecycle

I was speaking with married friends this week whose youngest child just secured her first job. It had been a couple of months since they had proudly attended their progeny's college commencement ceremony, and the news stories about unemployed college grads and the questionable ROI of higher education seemed to be  increasing every day.  So the whole family breathed a collective sigh of relief upon her acceptance of this job offer.

Of course, now the “fun” is just beginning for this newly minted college grad.  She will likely change jobs 10 or more times over the next 30 years, and chances are good she will hold jobs that do not exist today working for companies that have yet to be launched, possibly in unimaginable industries.  The only safe prediction is that she will experience lots of change, and she will need to adapt to remain relevant and succeed in an evolving workplace.  That said, there are some constants that are likely to hold as true 25 years from now as they have stood the test of the past 30 years or more:

·         Investing early will pay maximum dividends.  While this is true financially, it also applies to to professional development and commitment.  The more you can devote to developing your career skills at an early stage, the more benefits that are likely to accrue to you professionally for a number of reasons:

o    First impressions are powerful and lasting.  Being identified early on as a rising star can mean a success trajectory with lots of opportunities for advancement and further development.

o    Time gradually becomes scarcer.  Typically there are fewer competing demands on an early career professional than on more veteran employees (i.e., ability to relocate, family commitments).  Working weekends and long hours, traveling extensively, and relocation are always challenging but even more so as time goes on and roots and commitments become deeper.

·         Do not be afraid to stretch yourself.  The simple fact is that there are generally more opportunities to try new things earlier in one’s career.  Taking advantage of opportunities doesn’t just expand your knowledge; it expands your skill set.  Engineers should take advantage of any opportunities to interact with customers.  Salespeople should engage with product development staff.  The experiences will provide you with an understanding of more facets of the business, greater empathy for colleagues, and open up more areas for exploration.  It is also likely you will gain a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses and related likes and dislikes that will serve you well throughout your career.  Heck, you may even possibly find that you prefer a different career path.   

·         Grin and bear it now, so you don’t have to later.  Though not always achievable—ever, or on our ideal timeframe—it can be very motivating to keep a sense of the big picture in mind when forgoing that night out with friends for a long night of spreadsheet analysis or missing the family barbecue in order to catch a Sunday flight for a business trip.  While similar to the first bullet here, the idea here is less about career advancement and more about your professional endgame.  Give yourself the best opportunity to be able to walk away from bad situations, not take on roles that are bad fits just for a paycheck, and/or make a bet on yourself in a new endeavor. 

At EyeLevel, we work with people and organizations in all stages of their lifecycles.  If your company is just starting out and exploring options or if your company is mature and honing product and service offerings, EyeLevel can help you to make decisions, grow services, improve product, and create revenue whatever stage you are in.