If you have (had) a little person in your home, you know what potty training is all about. This is a crazy mix of hope, anxiety, and sense of pending loss as your little person flirts with the idea of leaving diapers behind for a bold and independent new world. As easy as diapers are for traveling, bedtime, and landing on when they fall down, little people need to eventually move on.
Which leads me here: at some point, people need to step up and take over tasks others have fulfilled for them in the past. Diapers, wiping, picking out clothes, tying our shoes – all these things eventually come into our repetoire as we age and mature. You may not have moved out of your parents house yet (even if you’re 45), but that doesn’t mean you can dodge your professional responsibilities forever. At some point, you must become parent to your child – because you do this for yourself.
When I think about the application of this line of thinking to career management, it makes me grin (bathroom analogies often do). Wiping the smirk, we must at some point become accountable for the aspects of our life/career. You probably have blowhards in your cubicle farm, always lecturing about how they are overworked and underappreciated (I hope this isn’t you, but there is hope – read on!). These folks are never fully appreciated until they are gone, and love to share about the good-old-days and “before your time”.
All this whining? Sounds like a daycare full of three-year-olds instead of adults:
“Somebody change me!”
“I’m not getting enough attention!”
“I want what [insert name] has, not the [toy or responsibility] that I have in my hands.”
“Our boss loves you more than me.”
So you can imagine my mental model, thinking about all the overgrown, diaper-wearing babies walking the floor, drinking coffee and hanging by the copier/scanner/stapler machine. I’m inclined to think it may simply be too late for them when they hit that 5th anniversary in the same role, crying in the same beer. Hell, I’m thinking that 6 months of agony and suffering in a dirty diaper is good cause to get moving.
Step up. Move forward. Push ahead. It’s not too late. Whip that career into shape.
Just like college, your parents/boss/mentor/HR can’t do the learning for you that must occur for you to mature as a professional. This is your life, your career – can you imagine anyone being in a better position than you to plan it out, to measure its progress? How useful is the learning represented by an “A” when your roommate wrote your papers?
Working hard at what we do, which includes managing our career, is what makes us knowledgeable resources down the road. All that whining? It’s because there are too few meaningful bits of wisdom to be shared, so you get water-cooler reruns.
A simple formula for growth – work on being the mentor you haven’t found yet.
So you can’t answer all your own questions – so what? At least you’ll be asking them, and seeking out those that can answer them when you can’t find the answer yourself. And the worst case is – you may never answer to the professional challenges you face, which may simply be the markings of high aspirations.