What are the qualities that define a leader? What is it that sets someone apart—standing taller and stronger—than those around them? What marks the virtues of influence and character and the many intangibles that define the best of who we are and what we want to be? We all have our own answers to those questions based on our own standards, beliefs, personalities, assets, and virtues. But that’s not what we’re going to focus on today. For this discussion, we are going to focus on a different question— one that we all face at different moments over the course of a career.
What Can Make It All Come Unglued?
Over the journey of a career, humility has thrown most of us a curve ball or two. Some of the reasons are beyond our influence or control, while others can turn out to be self- inflicted. Ultimately, there is one factor that can turn out to be a reason, a symptom, or a response.
Complacency can serve as a career-altering virus that can disrupt or even derail the most promising career. This isn’t something that hits us all at once and most often happens over time. In the workplace, it can happen when you become so entrenched in routines that you lose sight of bigger goals. It may occur due to impatience or depression, believing that your career hasn’t moved as quickly or in the direction that you had hoped. But it can also happen when you become overly confident and secure, feeling that there’s little that you need to do, learn, achieve, or experience to keep your career moving forward. This, in fact, might be the most dangerous.
Retail continues to change at a rapid pace, which directly impacts our talent needs and career opportunities. There are many things we might do to help keep us on track—or throw us off course. We often talk about the need to remain flexible and open-minded, but we also must recognize the need to reach out rather than waiting for things to come to us. In a highly competitive market, it’s critical to stay engaged no matter who you are or what position you hold. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost your way or your work is of lower quality. But it’s important to recognize the signs and when it’s necessary to take steps to get back on the right path.
Have you stopped investing in your professional growth and development? Are you challenging yourself and others? Are you taking shortcuts when you know you shouldn’t? Are you neglecting tasks you don’t like? Are you thinking through decisions when necessary and appropriate? Do you still have a passion for what you do? These don’t necessarily need to be glaring flags, and it’s perfectly acceptable to invest in other aspects of your life to find a balance that’s right for you and a life you want to live. But it is important to stay engaged and manage your professional brand.
Take the Steps
Regardless of where you are in your career, it’s essential to remain strategic and proactive regarding how you approach what you do, and it all starts with attitude. Look for productive ways to maximize your skills and talents. Take a class. Volunteer for an assignment. Mentor someone on your team. Get involved. Use the talent and experience that you’ve built over the course of your career to benefit yourself as well as others. Just make the effort, put those talents to good use, and make them work for you.
Write an article or contribute to a blog and put your thoughts into words. It amazes me how many industry leaders and subject matter experts are convinced they really don’t have anything new to offer. At the same time, we wouldn’t have a magazine or industry certifications if those same individuals weren’t willing to make the effort and share what they’ve learned. Keep in mind that you don’t need to be Shakespeare, and just as many people—if not more— have read Charles Schultz over the past fifty years.
Managing your career is a full-time responsibility and none of us can afford to get lost in a personal pandemic. Whatever steps you decide to take, make sure they help you move forward.