Some of you may not believe that knowing who you are and what size work you could do (given the opportunity and some mentoring) will have any affect on the rut you now find your career in. Here’s a short statement from Alan, whom I’ve been talking with for the past few years.
When I met Forrest four years ago, I was languishing in a job that I had clearly outgrown. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the moment. I had no idea how undervalued and underutilized my skills were. I thought for some reason I was simply unfocused, unmotivated or, perhaps, too disorganized. His perceptive eye helped me understand I had clearly stagnated for too long in a position where my capacity to perform had clearly outstripped my responsibilities. He claimed that, no matter how hard I tried, I would fail and ultimately get depressed if I continued to stay in my current position. I had gotten “too big” for my job. Honestly, my first reaction was to disbelieve him — I got somewhat emotional and upset. Hearing the truth, can, at times, unsettle you. His clear-thinking analysis coupled with his persistent, but encouraging tone helped me understand that “fit” is more than cultural, it has to do with doing work that matches you innate capacity and your ability to handle complexity.
In a relatively short time, I began to see and understand that I was operating in an position what was not just one, but several levels below me. The position was challenging at first, but I had reached a point where I didn’t enjoy my work at all. If I was evolving into a more complex individual capable of keeping many “variables” in the air, but the job wasn’t changing, then, perhaps, what Forrest was suggesting was the key to my career inertia. He made me realize I was thinking too small.
Forrest’s coaching got me to a place where I could begin to dream again and clearly see where I needed to begin looking for my next job. Within six month’s time, I had found a new position where I was much happier and where my capacities could be more fully utilized.
Forrest has remained a friend and trusted counselor. In fact, in my most recent change in jobs, his ability to boil the situation down to it’s bare-bones offered me a vision and a game-plan to take a direction that had proven quite beneficial.
It’s really true: there are times where you high-potentials can get stuck failing worse and worse in a job that you used to be great at. It can often be as short as six months, something Glenn Mehltretter of PeopleFit has spoken about. For the first few months, you’re learning everything at an extraordinary rate. You seem to have the golden touch. And then — WHAM! — the shoe drops and everyone hates you.
For people like Alan, you get into a job that is not necessarily exactly where your passion is, but you get good at it. You exceed your numbers and things are rolling. But you keep growing and forget to get a bigger job. Soon, you find your numbers slipping until you can barely meet the minimum. And then that can fall.
Once you can get work that fits, and you have the courage to take it, your entire life seems to turn around.
That’s really what took Alan six months: he had to come to grips with the fact that no matter how hard he worked, this job was not going to turn around for him. He had to look for something bigger.
“Neon sign: Open”, © 2005 Justin Cormack. Via Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY SA 2.0)