September 5, 2016

I think we can all agree the path to success in every venture, or adventure, is to give our best efforts.  Give it our all—110 percent. Leave it all on the field. Go more than the extra mile.  You get the picture.  One of the most powerful human emotions is regret.  When I attended the university, my machine design professor, Dr. Robert Maxwell would always tell us—“do the most important thing first, do not procrastinate—keep it moving.”  Get the big stuff out of the way and leave time to reevaluate so changes, if necessary, can be accomplished and still meet project time tables.

Sometimes we become comfortable with our job; things become mundane.  We seem to be on a plateau, a stagnant plateau with little enthusiasm for even coming to work.   Mike Lipkin, with the Environics Research Group has detailed six (6) stages of employment we all seem to go through.  He was directing his discussion to the engineering community but these stages apply to every profession.  Here we go:

  • BEGINNER—This is the “newbie”. The guy or gal just starting with a company.  They definitely have the highest level of motivation, drive, optimism, etc etc.  The beginner does NOT know what he does not know, consequently they may be given a task that is seemingly impossible.  One that an “old hand” is unwilling to tackle.  Beginners have a very poor sense relative to the odds against them.
  • BREAKTHROUGH—These individuals have been with the company long enough to find their way to the bathroom and may do very well. Successes are termed “beginner’s luck”.  It may be shear talent but often gets pinned as mere luck.
  • THE WALL—At this stage, generally with five or six years in, people become tired and overwhelmed with difficulties. Time constraints may seem very unrealistic.  Money allotted to accomplishing a task or project may be much too limited.  Team members may be unsuited to the task or seem to be unsuited.
  • CONSOLIDATION—At this phase in one’s career, people reset, review and re-engage. There have been successes but also failures.  This is where realism sets in relative to job assignments and company philosophy.
  • MASTRY—Experience, insights, and effectiveness become trademarks. You have a reputation for getting things accomplished even though there have been tough times.  Younger employees come to you for advice and answers.  This occurs around the seven (7) to ten (10) year period of your career.
  • Plateau—If we are not careful, this is where complacency occurs. We dream of the finish line; i.e. retirement.  We are not there yet but the light at the end of the tunnel is very appealing and we start to envision the day when we get the gold watch and a pat on the back.  This is a very dangerous time in an employee’s professional career.

OK—what do we do to eliminate the plateau of our career?  Here are my suggestions from fifty (50) plus years of working as an engineer.

  • KEEP LEARNING—Do not let the grass grow under your feet. Stay abreast of every-changing technology.  Today, more than ever, it is possible to learn by reading the literature, logging in to webinars, pod-casts, taking courses on-line.  You do NOT have to enroll in a structured university course to gain knowledge.  Continuously upgrade your skill set.
  • DEMONSTRATE YOUR VALUE AS AN EMPLOYEE—Speak up. Be unique by volunteering (yes I said volunteering) for the tough assignments.  The ones that take overtime and thought.  Never apply the “it’s not my job attitude”.
  • BE A CATALYST—Be that person who participates in problem solving. Someone said if you want to see the future—invent it.  You can do this with your company or team.  Bring energy to the table.
  • BE A TEACHER—That beginner would love to have your experience and some day will. Not now, but some day. Help him or her along that path to professional maturity.  People will notice how you treat the “new guy”.  You will become the “go-to” person not only for the new employee but the old hand who has hit that plateau.
  • COME EARLYSTAY LATE– I do not mean an eighty-hour week.  I just mean be ready when the bell rings.  Have that cup of coffee fifteen or twenty minutes before you are to be at your desk.  People notice.
  • COMPANY POLITICS— As best you can, stay away from company politics. That is a very tall order in today’s world but I fee essential to accomplishing a stress-free working day. This starts with not being a gossip.  My grandmother used to say—if you don’t have anything good to say about a person, say nothing at all.  Good advice.

I’m sure everyone has their own methodology for staying optimistic about their job.  Things you do on a daily basis to put fun back into an every-day eight or ten-hour profession.  I would love to get your comments on how you approach this in your working life.

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