+10 years, same employer – loyalty, passion or the power of your auto saboteurs?
When +10 years in a company no longer means what it used to…
I can sense their dissatisfaction with their current role in the company, in this firm where they grew up professionally, and to which they have dedicated a significant part of the most prolific period of their professional lives. They identify easily with what is written on their business card, they have witnessed company growth, acquisitions, they have accumulated power, sometimes they have had to give up power/team/responsibilities. Sometimes they came up with ideas before their time, suffered rejection or lack of recognition and stoically endured the lack of perspective but stayed… Why?
This is where everyone builds their own argumentative story… E.g.: for the people, for the boss, for the work environment, for benefits, for status, for the title on the business card, for proximity, for the credit in the bank, for their family’s financial stability… etc.
But there is another reason that only a few have the inner strength to see for themselves: it’s because they find it hard to get out of the “lab” – this familiar environment in which they excel – to validate their competence in the market, outside the company, with other roles, other organizational cultures, other bosses, other types of customers, etc.
Longevity in role/company – the other side of the coin
Because when you work more than 7 years in one organization, you grow nicely, you have the time to build, you evolve professionally. But there’s a downside – for some professionals, there’s more going on:
- The longer they stay in that environment, the more their confidence in their own strengths decreases, doubts arise that they will succeed in another organizational environment, that they will be good leaders…
- A need for validation with the “outside” appears, which they lack because they chose not to do networking (“who has time for that anymore?”), they chose not to go online, or they “silenced” their desire to communicate as experts in their field, at various events… Of course, the internal context is not helping them either – the need for validation also comes from the lack of an organizational feedback culture, a performance management system lacking credibility and the lack of a career management program at the organizational level. The goal crisis creates a lot of anxiety especially for those focused on performance and career development.
- Besides, we don’t usually realize this ourselves but those around us do: after so many years in the company we become reluctant to change, we too often bring up the past (“Back when I… I used to do this…”), we no longer see the business with a fresh eye or worse – we can become toxic to others. And so, instead of wanting to build, we end up focusing more on solutions to defend a picture we believed was permanent, not to say eternal.
Far be it from me the idea that being loyal to a company or finding satisfaction in the same role/company in the long run is wrong, quite the opposite – happy are themselves and their employers.
This article is not about satisfied people, but about those who feel miserable and yet choose to remain, somehow compelled to do so by the context or their own self-sabotage. “What if I can’t cope? I don’t even know how to introduce myself during an interview anymore… What if I don’t like the culture… What if I fall from the frying pan into the fire?” (it does often happen…)
I’m writing this from my own experience but also from the stories of many of my coaching clients – I don’t want to generalize, it doesn’t apply to everyone, but that doesn’t mean that professionals who accept their stagnation willy-nilly because the “outside” of the company scares them more don’t exist.
Career. How do we break down the invisible walls?
Here are some ideas:
- Set a 1:1 meeting with yourself, identify your current pluses, your successful projects, your years of experience and answer the question “Who am I – past, present and future?”
- What are your core values? What is acceptable and what is not for your professional future? What does the next career level mean to you within the market you want to serve?
- Make a list of people who are important to you professionally and just ask them: What word comes to their mind when they say your name? Identify the common elements, that’s your reputation. If there are differences compared to how you wanted to be perceived – you have work to do!
- Analyze your list of strategic contacts and seek to expand it through a conscious networking effort. Sometimes we are the ones creating the jobs/roles we dream of, looking carefully at ways we can help more, coming up with proactive solutions, subtly “selling” the idea, effectively engaging our contacts.
- Analyze your online presence and start with your LinkedIn profile, what can be improved? How do people with similar levels of experience in your industry communicate there? Which groups/communities are they part of? How can you contribute in the beginning through comments or summary posts?
- If you were asked tomorrow what topics you could talk/write about – as an expert – what would be the top 5 that came to you? You can slowly, easily become a content creator to your professional community, even if you don’t see yourself this way right now!
- And if you still want to go up to the plate to make a change – don’t walk towards your dream job unprepared – a career transition years after your last job interview really needs careful preparation, and sometimes expert help. Mapping your success stories, adapting your language to the targeted role, interview simulation, the audit to check your matching with the targeted company’s organizational culture, reworking your resume to deal with AI/algorithms, etc. – these are just a few necessary steps before entering the transition fire.
But it is all possible. And as you are in turmoil and get yourself into a state of frustration and dissatisfaction, I want you to remember one thing: you have unlimited opportunities ahead of you. They will reveal themselves to you when you are ready to get out of the “lab” and fight your own self-saboteurs!
So now, at the beginning of the year, I am asking you this question: How do you want to spend your most productive and creative professional years? Imagine you are 70 years old (a great age) – what advice would you give to the professional you are now?
May the year 2023 be the year that you take action from a place of inner strength and not one of vulnerability and fear! Good luck and if this article was helpful, you can subscribe for more on my blog here: https://bit.ly/3GDR51F