How was 2015?” asked one of my customers. “Very good for me and for my organisation” I said. Rightfully so, as 2015 was one of my most fulfilling years. If you were asked the same question, what would you say? How would you measure/evaluate/define the year gone by for yourself? Let me go further by asking you to evaluate if a year that passed by was good for you professionally? Do some years in your career stand out in your memory when compared to others? What parameters would you choose to determine if a particular year was memorable/professionally satisfying for you?
Are these some of the common parameters we use to measure professional success?
- Promotions (in a career spanning 25 years, how many promotions can you expect?)
- Receipt of attractive bonuses to purchase something significant (again how often is that?)
- Secure a new amazing job (how many times will you change?)
- Won a significant employee award (how many others win it every year?)
- You got that overseas posting. (Same question again)
As you reflect on these issues, allow me to share my reflections with you and the point I’m trying to make.
1995, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2014, 2015 are the years I count as the ones I was extremely proud of. Why? There is an external validation to start with. I would like to believe my supervisors would agree with this as well. Not sure that’s the best qualifying parameter to look at those years, nevertheless it gives me some solace to look at it, through somebody else’s eyes.
But in a career spanning 21 long years, only 9 stand out? What happened to the rest? I seem to be counting the years where there were only materialistic gains. I have also counted the years when I received a big promotion, when my business unit turned around, the year I launched my blog. What happened to the remaining 12 years? Did those years count for nothing? I must have made some impact. If not then I’m afraid my current and ex-employers may ask for a pay refund.
I don’t know why I did not list 1994, it’s a year I graduated from college with good grades, my best friends could afford and took the higher education path when I was busy looking for jobs for the opposite reason, with my state of depressed mind, I cleared 8 rounds of screenings to be employed by a Fortune 500 Multi National Company (MNC). They used to hire 2 out of a thousand interviewed in those days. Two decades later I am not counting it as a great year. Perhaps, getting your first job in an MNC for a fresher is not difficult today. I feel I am being unduly harsh on myself and ungrateful to my first employer.
1997 was one of the toughest years. I was a newly promoted manager, had a challenging relationship with my boss and chose to resign without a job in hand. Should I laud myself for hanging in there for as long as I did and taking the brave decision to leave my first employer or feel it was a bad year as I did not sign off on a high note? 1998, after struggling for 3 months to find a meaningful job and the pressure of running the family I got an opportunity with a startup, I transitioned well from a ‘cushy’ managerial role at an MNC to an individual contributing job in a struggling Biotech company leading in to 1999 where I had a great year in sales to be promoted. The learnings I have can give me a great heads up if I start or join a startup today, but still it does not feature top of my mind as a year of reckoning. Don’t know why?
I can go on and process many of those so called ‘not happening’ 12 years. Those precious years have no tangible visibility to the outside world, but deep inside those were the years where I toiled hard. Individual learning and growth was at its best, and my skills were deployed to build something new or turn something around. But alas! I wish I could describe them with more pride as my building blocks for future success. It would be ideal to list our best years where:
- Perhaps we lost our jobs but were able to learn so much more for the next one
- Did not get an increment or promotion but, backed ourselves and demonstrated our resilience to bounce back against our own fears of failing again.
- Landed up with a bad boss and still ensured we played the role the organisation hired us for to come out winning after a long wait, do we pat our back for our perseverance?
- Did not perform to the organisation’s expectations or organisation going through a bad phase/merger but ensured through our grit and agility to hang around to give the best we could?
The yardsticks we use to measure our professional careers may change over time and what lingers in our memory are measures of success because of the way society has structured our thinking and the norms so well laid out and ingrained in each of us. Every year of our professional life counts for something and must not be discounted.
It has been 21 years in the making to get me where I am today and each one has counted! What is it for you?
I only have pictures of celebration in my collection!