career tracks, careers, companies, corporate pyramid, employment, good health, high-flyer, industries, Leon Menezes, lifecycles, mid-life crises, products, promotions, relationships, retirement, rightful progress, work
If products and industries have lifecycles, then why not careers? Generally there are only two occasions when we pay attention to it: when our careers plateau or when we near retirement. So let’s take a sweeping look at this issue from a male perspective.
Generally, we enter the workforce aged 25; by our late 20s, we are expected to be married and children follow soon after. In our late 30s we will probably be taking care of aging parents and by our early 40s, we will hopefully have survived our first bypass. At each of these stages, our priorities change and obligations grow, creating a new perspective for us: what is more important, work, relationships or good health?
If you are a high-flyer, you will quickly rise in the ranks and somewhere in your mid-40s, hit your peak. In between, you will probably have changed career tracks and companies, all the while dealing with the issues described above. Since the corporate pyramid is extremely narrow at the top, sustaining momentum becomes very demanding. This point in time also coincides with our mid-life crises and we ask ourselves: “Where am I?”, “What am I doing here?” and “Where am I going?” Some of us will find the resolve to keep going, while others will drift into a sort of miasma and lose direction.
For others, the drift starts a bit earlier as they get passed over for promotions; frustration sets in but people never look to see what it is they should be doing to reorient their careers. We blame the system and those who have usurped our rightful progress. Worse, we choose to remain in the same employment instead of seeking recourse elsewhere.
So, how do we deal with either of the situations listed above? We may have limited options, but if we step back and realise that our jobs are just a small part of our careers, and our careers are a small part of our lives, then we can stop identifying with our titles and the companies we work for. Pursuing interests outside of work and building strong relationships help as well.
Remember, people on their deathbeds have hardly ever said: “I wish I had spent more time at work.”
– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor-of-practice and an executive coach.
First published in the Career Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on July 27, 2014.