It's better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than halfway up one you don't
This one has been on my mind for some time, and today is the perfect day to publish. Let me explain…
I am obsessed with The Office.
To clarify, as much as it annoys me to have to do so – the UK version – which is, naturally, the best version.
(That’s going to cause comments from you Dunder Mifflin fans…) I
It’s final episode, the second of two Christmas specials, was released 20 years ago today. So yes, I do feel a bit old…
Not only does it feature one of the greatest love stories ever shown on television, with an unmatched finale and song choice, but the series as a whole also contains a particularly thoughtful comment on life.
“It's better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than halfway up one you don't.”
For a 20-year old British comedy pre-the Great Resignation, that’s deep.
And, with no pun-intended about rungs and heights, there’s many levels to that line when it comes to career advice.
Oh yes, this is a sideways analogy.
I did promise them…
It’s ok to want something else
The most obvious interpretation is the one used in the show: if you’re not where you want to be in your career and sat there wishing you were doing something else, you can still change that.
But, let’s be real.
This is always easier said than done.
Bills to pay, families to feed, the paralysing fear of the unknown… reality bites, and it bites hard.
That doesn’t mean you can’t set your sights on where you really want to be. Whatever you’re doing might be perfectly ‘fine’, but it’s absolutely ok to want more.
In fact, it doesn’t even have to be more, it can just be new.
Plus, depending on where you work and its relation to what you want to do, or your wider career ambitions, there will be many of you reading this knowing quite clearly what the reaction from your peers or managers would be if you shared your ambitions.
For those of you where it’s not possible to share this at work, don’t worry… there will be other outlets – friends, family, mentors, coaches, counsellors.
But if you are lucky enough to work in a business which is more understanding, then don’t be afraid to speak to your manager. As long as they know this isn’t going to affect your work efforts, there’s a strong chance they’ll be supportive.
To urge some sense of caution here, use your family and friends as sounding boards to see if this is a wise move before broaching it.
Don’t be afraid to start again
This might be a cliché but… sometimes it makes sense to first go back, so you can then go forward.
(It definitely was a cliché but we move).
If you’ve realised that where you are right now is not going to get you to where you want to be in your career, then it’s time for a change.
Potentially, this is a major reset so you can take the necessary steps to smash through any barriers, and go onto achieve something special.
And as a final bit of reassurance, experience means I can promise you it’s no bad thing if you do want to start from scratch.
Where you are right now, might be where you belong
Before one final reassuring point (I hope…), here’s one you might not have expected to read: you might be exactly where you need to be, you just haven’t realised it yet.
Question is, how do you find this out without leaving and looking back with hindsight?
Here’s some ideas…
Firstly, do you enjoy what you do? But more than that, do you enjoy what you do in the context of where you work?
Do you believe in the company and its mission? Do you believe in what its going to do to achieve that mission? And the audience you serve?
Ticking those off is a good start, but it goes beyond that
Does the company invest in you through training and coaching? Does it value you with random acts of kindness and processes set up for your wellbeing? Is the culture set up to be honest, supportive and rewarding?
There will be more, find yours.
This has giving me the idea that there’s clearly a bigger article to write about how to spot a business that values you.
Don’t worry, I’ve added it to the content plan!
It’s ok to feel completely lost
I saved this for last on purpose.
You might have read all of this thinking, “that’s all well and good Dave, but I don’t have a fu-… foggiest what I want to do.”
And, that’s ok.
There are options.
Think about what you enjoy in your personal life, and how that could potentially lead into a career.
Also, speak to your peers; learn more about what they do and if one piques your interest, explore it further. You won’t learn anything new just by sitting their worrying alone.
Ask for advice at every and any point you can!
At the same time, can you seek out industry thought-leaders to learn from? Read their blogs? Listen to the odd podcast?
With my marketing-hat on, here are a few specific examples of personal interests or skills that could translate into a ‘new ladder’:
You like writing > journalism, PR, content, social media.
You feel creative > design, social media, content.
You enjoy number-crunching > data and insight, marketing analytics, digital advertising.
You tell a good story > content, journalism, PR.
You’re organised > account management, project management.
The same skills might translate into sectors you work in.
Thanks for reading, comments welcome as always.
P.S. I managed to get through the whole article without sharing my home office artwork too… until now: