I love the passion for career growth and success that I hear from the younger professionals I encounter in my travels. While some in our world misinterpret this energy and emotion as, “I want it all now,” my perspective is it’s more of, “I want to do something significant immediately.” There’s a difference.
A recurring theme in these conversations with millennials is a bit of frustration tinged with anxiety over not knowing the direct path to some envisioned end-state of success in their careers. (More experienced professionals have their own version of career anxiety…a different post for a different day.)
One individual I spoke with is doing everything right, including working hard at his job, studying extensively outside of work, writing, reading and building a great network (all while excelling as a husband and father). Yet, the lack of clarity around the right moves to make now to ensure career success as he envisions it, is creating anxiety for him. He has big aspirations to lead and grow businesses that do great things for employees and customers, but the path forward is not clear.
While always hesitant to be prescriptive (coaches facilitate and help others discover their answers), I offered three thoughts for him to consider:
1. Succeed wildly at whatever you are doing now, and your opportunities for growth expand exponentially. Give yourself a break from fretting over the long view and immerse yourself totally and completely in the here and now.
In this individual’s case, he’s part of a maturing start-up in a role where he can directly impact the firm’s success and as a result, fuel his growth. But first, he has to focus all of his energies on succeeding with the current mission. The future has a way of serving up opportunities for those who prove their worth from mission to mission.
2. Always remember that someone must choose you for success. As uncomfortable as it is to feel like success is out of your direct control, someone must always choose to trust you to do something new. Depending upon your ambitions, you need customers, investors, bosses or hiring managers to trust you to do something great for them. It’s always a judgment call about you, and while you are looking forward, they are looking to your past for evidence that you can be trusted. The best way to gain favorable judgment is to return to my first suggestion and succeed wildly at what you are doing now.
3. It’s all practice. The hard work, grinding and challenges you encounter are simply practice and preparation for the next step in your career. Instead of looking past the short term challenges, focus on succeeding with every obstacle you encounter. It’s part of your perpetual leveling up process.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
I resisted the urge in my conversation with the young man to trot out the, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” cliché, but it is true. A better thought might be Peter Drucker’s, “Actions in the present are the one and only way to create the future.”