Does Your Current Success Define Your Choices?

One of my clients had been quite successful in a particular role. She’d decided it was time to look for a new job doing the same thing. She wanted my opinion about several organizations. Instead of offering her an opinion on the organizations, I asked this question, “Do you want to do the same thing or try something new?”

She inhaled sharply. “I want to succeed. I want to do what I’ve always done.”

“You didn’t always do this thing before. You learned a lot in the first ten years of your career. You built on that learning in these roles. From my perspective, you’ve done the same thing in the last three jobs, the last ten years. Do you want to continue that?”

“I want to be successful!” she said.

We talked a lot then about what success means for her. She defined success as:

  • Being able to do the job she had
  • Continuing to being able to do that job
  • Maybe learning a little, but being paid more to do that job

I asked her why. When people define success that narrowly, they often have a reason. She did. She was paying for college educations and helping her parents navigate their less-capable lives.

She had a ton of stress in her life. Now was absolutely not the time to add more stress by trying something new.

And yet…

When she investigated these organizations, they didn’t want to pay her what she thought she was worth.

She was “too senior.” Or some such nonsense.

Her current success defined her. And, she was no longer the new sweet young thing (this happens to men, too). And, her prospective employers wanted to find someone who was willing to go past previous boundaries to learn and deliver more value.

Employers are not smart about hiring more seasoned people. Often, their thinking is if they need to pay you more, you need to show them you can do more.

I’m sure there is not one Right answer for everyone. Here are some possibilities you might consider:

  • Can you take a small step, create a small tangent and add some other kind of skills you already know about to your repertoire? For jobs, that might be adding facilitation or other kinds of interpersonal skills to your technical skills.
  • Can you link your current knowledge to “newer” kinds of work or capabilities other people need? My client had been a project and program manager. She was a whiz at rolling wave planning. She explained how product owners needed those skills and she could help.
  • Ask yourself what you want to learn next and see if there’s a little area you haven’t explored yet.

You don’t have to reinvent yourself. You might need to make sure you’re not suffering from FEAR. You might need to brainstorm a few ideas to make sure you see possibilities. The Rule of Three is great for that.

And, for me, the biggest thing is to have the courage to create new possibilities. My client did and now she has a better job for more money. And, she’s not working overtime, which was her biggest concern.

That’s the question this week: Does your current success define your choices?

4 thoughts on “Does Your Current Success Define Your Choices?

  1. Jim Grey

    I’m definitely trying to ride on my existing skills, the things I’m good at, right now. I’m early 50s and starting to look it. I’ve got two kids still in college and elderly parents struggling at the ends of their lives. This isn’t the time for a grand new adventure, this is the time to stay the course. Maybe the next adventure will come when the kids have graduated and, unfortunately, the parents have passed on.

    The hidden win in this is that I’ve had some recent failures and this period is a chance for me to reflect deeply, get some coaching, and do better.

    1. Johanna Post author

      I wasn’t writing about you, Jim, and you have the same stressors my client has. I, too, suffer from the I-no-longer-look-young problem.

      I bet you can learn from those supposed failures, and create something new from them.

      1. Jim Grey

        Every time in my career I’ve experienced heavy growth it was after a stinging failure. Failure is a log on the growth fire.

        Doesn’t mean I enjoy failing, of course.

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