I have the honor of working with many high-performing and high-potential individuals who are always striving to reach the next level in their careers. What is quite common among these people (and most high achievers) is they are typically very forward-looking and assess their current career success based on how far away they are from their "next level" or that next goal. I have heard this described as the "elusive carrot" syndrome and I think it is a great depiction of what is going on. As that carrot (which represents what we are trying to achieve) is dangling out in front of us, it always seems one step ahead of us and just out of our reach. As long as we assess our progress against that elusive carrot, it can feel like we are never getting anywhere. But, if we take a look behind us, the picture is quite different. I recently did this with a client who is striving to reach a higher level position inside his company. He has not yet gotten there so feels like he is not making progress in his career goals. Yet, when he looked back six months, he realized he had finished his master's degree, hired six new people on his team, successfully implemented several new programs across his company as well as completed a senior leadership development program inside his company. This not only gave him exposure to the CEO and executive team, but it also allowed him to present to the company board. All of these things were clear indicators of his progress toward his goal of reaching that higher role. However, by only looking ahead at the "elusive carrot," he was unable to see just how far he'd come and all the successes he had achieved. I am all for being forward-thinking and focusing on achieving goals. In fact, I'd much rather do that than look behind me; however, every so often, it is really important to take a look back six months or one year to see how far you've come. It might even re position your perspective on that "elusive carrot" you are striving to reach.
Many young executives like to ask for career success tips. I usually start by saying career success doesn’t come in a day. Yet, day-in day-out, I see young people entering the working life and pushing themselves as if they will make CEO in a year. They have a tendency to compare their progress with their contemporaries. However, you should not and must not compare your success to your contemporaries. If you ask me, "What is career success?" I don't have the answer. But, I can give you a career success tip that works for me. However, ultimately only you can answer, “What is career success?” only you can seek. No one can do it for you. It is to be defined by your own values and principles in life. You would have to define what is career success for yourself. It means different things for different people. The first step is to ask yourself, “What is career success?" It is not a question you should mull over daily. You will have to spend time thinking about this. The answer will not come easy. Ask yourself that question, and then let it float in your mind for however long it takes - never force the answer. Next, remind yourself this - if your career is a marathon, then it includes the preparation for the race - the warm ups, the stretches, the strength exercises, the stamina building, and the constant practice runs. Constant effort is what will eventually get a positive response - and that response is success. My biggest fear for many young executives is that many of them embark on this marathon and end up hurting themselves. They hurt themselves because, instead of warming up and stretching, they sprint. Eventually they end up injured, taking months and years to recuperate. This is an important career success tip. Your career like many things in life cannot be rushed. You succeed by not rushing nor lazing off. Your career success comes to you when you do not rush yourself through it. But this also means you do not laze off. When you rush you start to be careless. You forget the basic important steps in the race for your career success. Of course, if you sprint through at this early phase, you risk overdoing it. On the other hand, if you laze off – you won’t put in the appropriate effort needed for success. For success to happen, you need to be moderate in your pursuit. That would be career success tip for you. There is a saying: Hurrying makes things too tight, Slacking off lets things get too loose, By not hurrying and not slacking off, We can succeed at what we do. To conclude, in this race, you are your own competitor. To end this career success tip, I leave you with this thought from Dao De Ching: He who knows other men is discerning, he who knows himself is intelligent. He who overcomes other is strong; he who overcomes himself is mighty. He who is satisfied with his lot is rich. He who goes on acting with energy has a firm will. He who does not fail in the requirements of his position, continues long. He who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity.