“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” -Cynthia Occelli.
I had a call recently from an old friend who was having a tough time with her career. Marcia had been with the same organization for some ten years, felt that she was underutilized, was working for a difficult boss, felt that she had been passed over for promotion, and was recently assigned to a particular project that was not of her liking. She had called me for advice on her career, and while I indeed had a number of suggestions for her, my first bit of feedback was a suggestion that the struggle was part of the journey to a better place. And what did I mean by that, she asked? I told her about a story I once heard about a man witnessing the drama of a moth as it emerged from its cocoon. The tiny moth was giving everything it had to squeeze through a tiny hole. Wanting to help, the man took a small pair of scissors and ever so carefully widened the opening so the moth could pull through, absent a struggle. But the tiny moth paid a terrible price, for it never was able to fly. It is the struggle and strain of getting through that tiny opening that forces fluids into the wings of the moth. It is the very struggle that gives it power and the ability to fly. And such it is with life and career. You grow stronger from embracing the struggle.
My conversation with Marcia was lengthy, and by the end she had some appreciation for my message. And she also agreed that over the past ten years she had done very little in terms of planning a career move, and perhaps had spent too much time complaining and feeling victimized.
My advice on career growth is relatively straight forward:
- Embrace the struggle. If you are going through a difficult time and can learn from the experience, it will enrich you for the forward trail.
- Develop a plan of action. You need to determine a pathway to a better place, and if you cannot get there by yourself, there a number of wonderful career coaches (and enough bad ones) to help you on the journey.
- Realize that a career move is not a 60-day plan to recovery. It can take one to two years or more of hard work, but persistence will pay off.
We live in a world that often glorifies leisure and time off work, and we forget that a fulfilling career can provide true enrichment for a wonderful life.