It seems like just yesterday I was the youngest of 5 kids packed into our hot and cramped family vehicle, along with my sister and cousins, for the road trip down Interstate 95 to Disney World. I can vividly remember the long ride from Moncks Corner, SC that seemed to take "FOREVER." Inevitably, I said what all kids say for any drive longer than an hour; "are we there yet?.. are we THERE yet??. ARE WE THERE YET!!!???"
After the fifth, or fifteenth, time that question was posed, we would all receive the following answer; "Hold on kids, we're ALMOST- HALFWAY there." Can you remember those times, be it during childhood road trips or spots during your adult life, where you have been encouraged by that sentiment? If so, good, because the focus of this 40-for-40 post is all about staying positive when things get tough along the career journey, and remembering that as long as you are moving forward, each step gets you closer to your arrival "... there."
Embrace the Journey:
One way to stay positive during the many ups and downs throughout the career journey is first to accept that you are on one. Deep inside our heart of hearts, we all have a little bit of that kid inside of us who is impatiently sitting in the backseat screaming "are we there yet" while navigating our way throughout our life's work. Often the excitement found at the beginning of career quickly morphs into agitation once we feel that we are not getting where we would like to go quickly enough. Questions like, "why them over me?," and negative self-affirmations such as "I do not know what I am going to do if this does not work out!" all lead to the same unhealthy outcome; disappointment, when your plans did not match God's plans for your career. When that occurs, we tend to overlook the importance of merely beginning and embracing new opportunities for growth, often found in those "foot-in-the-door" opportunities that launch us toward our next career goal.
Be "Available" to New Opportunities
Those pesky "foot-in-the-door" experiences often appear quite literally; in the form of your actual foot taking that first step inside of a new career opportunity that may (or may not) live up to your expectations. The oft-dreaded "first day at the office, theater, campus, etc." is experienced by everyone daring enough to take on the challenges associated with building a career. As I reflect on where my journey has brought me thus far, none of the transition period opportunities felt like that is what they were at the time. They were not "comfortable" and in some cases not well-timed, but ultimately they were all necessary and beneficial for my growth.
Embrace Authentic Relationships: Teamwork makes the Dream Work
From entry-level - recent high school or college graduate - positions, to mid-career professional roles, to executive leadership roles, each journey begins with an initial step. This axiom is true regardless of the level of the position that you were hired for, so try to keep this in mind when you feel challenged by the daily grind and are aggravated with your current position. Another part of the journey that often gets glossed over too quickly is that we all ultimately answer to "someone," so unless you are an entrepreneurial, small business owner - flush with personal startup cash - get used to working with others. You will not always need their approval, but you will benefit from their support. Creating lasting, authentic relationships with the people you work with, for, and share allegiances with (such as your alma mater, place of worship, or civic/volunteer groups you support) are critical, so don't be in too fast of a hurry to run through your beginning experiences. As corny as it may sound, we truly are all in this together.
Expect Delays Along the Road: Patience is Key
Restaurant managers answer to owners, college presidents answer to trustee boards, and elected officials ultimately answer to their constituents. At every stop along the journey, there will always be more "to accomplish," more people "to impress," and more "assignments" are given until the day you retire. It is a long journey filled with terrific moments such as promotions, office parties, opportunities to express your creativity, professional development, and special recognition. While this is all great, take note that the road to career success is rarely a straight line.
The road is continuously "Under Construction" and is littered with "Yield," "Caution," "Dangerous Curves Ahead," "Detour Ahead," and those dreaded "Stop" signs. It would be disingenuous of me not to mention that the journey will also include difficult moments. Times of: stillness (when you want to move forward but are forced to be patient), heartbreak (when you are rejected), betrayal (when others fail you), disappointment (when you fail yourself), separation (when those you thought you needed are no longer there), and ultimately your preparation for the next stop...and then the next stop, etc. of your career. While the road may be treacherous, it is a fantastic ride! What a shame it would be to have such an exciting adventure ahead of you that you under appreciate because "it is all about making it to the top... ASAP!"
The image to the left is a picture of the infamous "Road to Hana" located in Maui, HI. The road is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world, and it is filled with: blind turns, one-way-sized roads with two-way traffic (yes, that is a REAL thing!), and a mix of locals, who know the road, and tourists who do not. My wife and I took the drive last year, and I can honestly tell you that it was the most intense "long-short" ride I have ever taken in a car. The road is only 62 miles long, but it took us a solid 3.5 hours to make it to the top. Along the way were equal parts beauty (waterfalls and amazingly beautiful scenery) and danger. The mix of passive and aggressive drivers on the road made navigating the blind turns very scary, but it was an experience we would do again and never forget. About half-way through I wanted to turn around, but we continued the drive because, thanks to our directions from Google Maps and the advice of others who had gone before us, we knew what was waiting at the top of the road was worth it.
Once we arrived we took a deep breath and ventured out to enjoy Waiʻanapanapa State Park. The state park is home to one of the world's most beautiful black sand beaches and is truly a wonder of the world! As you may have easily guessed, we did not think about the dangerous nature of the drive once we arrived. We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with our best friends soaking up the sun, sand, and scenery while not laboring over all of the anxiety we may have experienced along the "road to the top."
Lastly, we realized that there was no way we could have prepared for all of the twists and turns, surprises, and danger of the exciting journey, but the ride was well worth it. Similarly, your career journey can be treacherous at spots, and without proper guidance and perspective, it can seem like a journey too difficult to push through. Do not be afraid to use the guidance and wisdom of trusted elders you meet along the way who may be able to provide you with a little career navigation. Trust me; you will need it. The road is long. The ride will often be boring and seemingly mundane. You will want to turn around and go back home, but stay the course and continue moving forward because "... you are almost-halfway there". #AlmostHalfway #40for40 #Careers