Invest in Yourself Before Failure Occurs
Let me ask you a few questions:
- Should you put another log on the fire in your fireplace after it’s already gone out?
- Should pilots wait for their plane to crash before making adjustments to their altitude?
- Should a couple wait until their marriage ends in divorce before they find a marriage counselor?
- Should you wait to add gas to your vehicle until it has already stalled on the freeway?
OK, yes. Some of us have made that last mistake. But how many times have you made that mistake?
If you’ve run out of gas several times, then you may also be one of those people who only decide to invest in professional development after they’ve experienced a failure in their career.
Given that I’m a career coach, of course, I am happy to help you if you’ve been passed over for a promotion or fired from your job. I want to help people recover from bad situations and get back on a path to success.
However, let me tell you something. It is so much easier to land a great new job before you’ve been fired or laid off. It’s also a lot easier to get a raise or promotion before you’ve failed at work.
The proverb “A stitch in time saves nine” most definitely applies to your career, but surprisingly few people follow that advice. Most assume that a career is just something that works out on its own if you work hard and do well.
Many also assume that career failures are inevitable. All you can do is wait for them to occur and recover from them later.
- “There’s no way that I can avoid a layoff!” — False
- “A promotion is up to my boss. I can’t control that.” — Also false
- “I don’t need to look for a new job unless I get fired.” — So very false
You should never leave your professional destiny in the hands of someone else. You can control the direction that your career takes.
However, it does require that you take ownership of your career path. You need to invest in yourself and your career before things go sideways.
Recovering from failure is harder than you think
We all experience failure. It is a normal part of life. When you have big goals and take chances, you should expect to fail more often than you succeed.
I’m not saying that you should avoid all failure. But, you should avoid unnecessary failure.
Too many failures occur because people don’t plan or prepare. That doesn’t have to happen.
Maybe you are one of the few people who thrive on failure. Perhaps you enjoy the challenge of recovering from them.
However, many people take a morale hit when a failure occurs. They question themselves and their abilities. They lose confidence.
When you invest in yourself and your career before failure occurs, you stay ahead of the game.
You can ride success to the next wave of success.
The ratio of wins to losses becomes more favorable when you continuously invest in your professional development and intentionally plan your next career move.
Recovering from failure takes longer than you think
People are often shocked by how long it takes to find a new job. I don’t mean just any old job. I’m talking about a better job than you had before, a fantastic role with a great boss, and work that you will love.
On average, it takes about a month of active job search activity for every year of experience that you have to find a new job. Note that I said, “average.” Some people find a job more quickly (e.g., if they have a powerful network, when they work with me). Some people take much longer when they don’t prepare, reach out to their network, or ask for help.
A friend of mine has more than 20 years of experience and has reached senior levels of leadership in his career. He’s smart, talented, and connected. But, he’s been looking for his next role for almost a year now. Like I said, finding a fantastic job takes more time than you think.
Why does it take so long? Well, many of the most productive activities — like activating your professional network — can’t just be flipped on like a light switch. It takes time to spin up your job search, reach out to people, update all of your information, prepare, and practice.
How can you recover more quickly? You probably guessed it. Don’t wait. Take action every week.
- Continuously invest in your professional development.
- Create, activate, and evolve your ambitious career plans.
- Keep your professional network fresh and active.
- Make sure that people know that you exist and what you are capable of achieving.
- Expand your influence, and grow your professional brand long before a failure occurs.
Don’t wait for failure to occur
You don’t wait for your vehicle to break down at an unexpected moment. You schedule oil changes, buy new tires, and get tune-ups.
People should do the same for their careers, but most don’t.
They wait until they get passed over for a promotion. They wonder why their career seems to be slowing down. They panic when they get fired and suddenly need to start interviewing.
Then, people think that they can flip the switch from failure to success overnight. But, rapid recovery only happens in rare cases.
Most people discover that it takes months to recover from a failure, get back on their feet, and achieve success.
Why risk it?
Why would you sit back and hope that your career is doing “OK”? Why would you wait and dream that something better might come along? Why wouldn’t you take control and make it happen on your own terms?
Let me be clear about something
Investing in your career doesn’t have to cost money. But, it does require a commitment to your professional development.
Rather than waiting for something to go wrong, take full advantage of the resources available to you at work. Most people do not, but they should.
The total compensation for the work that you do for your employer goes beyond the financial benefits. Most companies provide access to some sort of training, courses, workshops, and other forms of development.
When I was an employee, I remember utilizing all available resources to advance my knowledge, skills, and confidence (e.g., design conferences, local workshops, training in public speaking, media training).
Did it work? I’d say that it did.
Once I got serious about investing in my career, I was promoted multiple times from an individual contributor role (i.e., Senior Designer) to Vice President over six years.
I’m not saying that to brag. I’m making the point that the investment of your time and energy into your career is well worth it.
The question is:
Do you care enough to do it?
Maintaining the health of your career is an ongoing commitment. Accelerating your career trajectory requires serious planning, execution, and time.
- Working with your manager to plan your career path takes time.
- Training, courses, workshops, and conferences require your time.
- Healthy networking done the right way takes a consistent investment of your time.
- Building a body of evidence that demonstrates your expertise and excellence takes time.
- Keeping your resume, portfolio, website, and LinkedIn up to date takes time.
- Planning and finding your next career move takes a lot of time.
Invest in yourself and your future by dedicating time every month to your career. Don’t wait for failure to occur before you commit to your professional development.
Success will come easier when you are always one step ahead!
Larry Cornett is a Leadership Coach and Career Advisor. He lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and children, a Great Dane, a rabbit, and a needy cat. He shares advice that helps you become an opportunity magnet for the best things in life! You can also find him on Twitter and Instagram @cornett.