Career Resiliency: What Does It Take?
No doubt there are many tough career stories in the naked city. I interviewed a close family friend yesterday about what it took for him to stay in the game. I have to tell you that I was completely moved by his brutal honesty in discussing having been fired four times over the course of his career. Mind you, I am not talking about downsizing or the company going offshore. I am speaking about being let go for politically incorrect behavior on the job. At the same time, what is even more remarkable is the fact that today this individual is an out-and-out complete success in his given industry.
Clearly, there was some kind of pattern that bounced this guy from multiple companies in manufacturing, retail, real estate, and the medical industry. There’s an old adage that says, “If you don’t learn the first time, the lesson will be handed to you again and again until you do learn.” And, that is in fact what occurred in this instance.
Moreover, the trait of resiliency plays a huge role in determining one’s future career. Several career theories also promote that making appropriate career decisions increases self-confidence. That seems to make complete sense. However, the paradigm shift will only happen if we take time to assess ourselves. This concept of self-assessment also holds true for determining next steps in our career or exploring new career options.
When I interviewed this close family friend about his career failures and successes, the compelling evidence of accepting his faults was undeniable. Further, the very essence of his catastrophes had to do with political incorrectness for the most part, but that wasn’t all he uncovered when he drilled down on what happened some 25 years ago.
Among his insights, he concluded:
- Taking ownership was critical to both his career and personal development. Blaming others and not accepting responsibility for his actions and behavior did not alleviate the problem nor help him get to the next level. He had to dig deep inside to uncover what went wrong.
- He admitted that in digging deep about his personality and character traits, he realized he wasn’t a manager of people because his expectations of others trumped his own. Therefore, although he enjoyed helping people, he would use his drive to genuinely help others and focus his skills and expertise on primarily being responsible for his own production.
- He adopted the concept (from Neal Boortz at a commencement speech) that said, “The revered 40-hour workweek is for losers. Forty hours should be considered the minimum, not the maximum.” You don’t see highly successful people clocking out of the office every day at 5:00 p.m. The losers are the ones caught up in that afternoon rush hour. The winners drive home in the dark.
These words crystallized and reaffirmed everything that he felt about what it took to become successful. Combining this quote and correcting his “fatal personality flaws” ultimately ensured a stronger pathway to achieving his career goals. He instilled a belief that success comes from hard work and a commitment to excellence in whatever he did. He never wanted to be at the top of the list when it came to layoffs, so he began on a path of distinguishing himself coupled with a “no option to fail” mentality. Therein lies his formula for success as it stands today.
I think the importance of learning lessons from our experiences — both personal and professional — relies on deliberate contemplation. In fact, understanding our lessons requires us to reflect — without a cell phone or TV in the background. The question begs itself to be asked, “Do you stop to reflect on your experiences to gain insight or do you just simply move on?”
Undoubtedly, life will hand you setbacks. It will sometimes hand you a card that you never expected, couldn’t anticipate, nor wish on any one of your enemies. I sincerely believe in being a realist as well as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, but you could also take a page out of Steve Jobs’ playbook.
“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”