For nine years I have watched my friend and colleague, Lindsay, wade through the highs and lows of a marketing career impacted by technology, the economy, and personal circumstances. Her role has changed ten times: ten times in just nine years!
With each change, I expected her to leave the area or go do something completely different. But Lindsay hasn’t left. Lindsay stays calm and moves forward with new companies, bosses, or protocols.
I admire her perseverance, and I get the sense she is highly valued by her bosses. But at the same time, I keep wondering how she is able to stay focused when everything around her seems to be in a state of flux! What did her career evaluation look like to her? So last week, instead of the usual catch-up conversation over coffee, I asked her straight–out―how do you manage this time and again?
Lindsay laughed and admitted it hasn’t been easy. When she looks back and compares what she has done versus where she expected to be today, she said there are many roles she wanted to have gone differently. She explained that what helps with her career evaluation was a talk she had with her aunt, who leads an architectural firm. Lindsay was having one those moments when she wanted to give it all up and move somewhere else. Her aunt said she everyone experiences highs and lows, in particular in the creative fields. Here are three questions that her aunt said would help her through a well-founded career evaluation.
That was the easiest answer―Lindsay said she expected the best from herself in each aspect of her life. But … that made her ask if she was actually doing her best? That fast answer to that question was “no” because she felt she spent too much time looking around at what she “ought” to be doing. She felt caught up in her expectations and focused energy on why she wasn’t meeting “her” expectations. She immediately set out to refocus her energies on the work she had, and she said that just making that change improved her outlook and reduced the negative feelings she had about work.
Next question had a fast answer, too.
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Her work provided her with income and the ability to care for her family. It satisfied core intellectual needs, provided her with colleagues, and, as a marketing executive, she got one of her much-needed creative outlets. She said she is not someone to define herself exclusively by her career, but she felt good about describing her work to others and acknowledged that it is an important part of how she viewed herself. From a career evaluation standpoint, she looked at her successes from her current and prior roles and admitted that even with so much change, she had consistently delivered good results that impacted the business. What’s wrong with that?
Lastly, Lindsay said she spent time on the third question her aunt had asked.
Four years ago, she would have said there was a low value to her contributions. But after the discussion with her aunt and taking a hard look at her accomplishments and a fuller career evaluation, she now felt differently. That difference is what enables her to stay calm in the face of so much change. She felt her ability to adapt to the fast pace of change makes her even more valuable to a marketing organization.
As we said our good-byes outside the coffee shop, I felt even more admiration for Lindsay. I can see how her ability to focus on what she can contribute and worry less about expectations is a great skill to have.