We get to hear about career flashpoints almost daily these days. In search of anecdotes for career setbacks, or while in the middle of reflections that are leading to nowhere, we possibly look for these ourselves and stumble upon articles after articles on how life’s severe downturns – from divorce, to health diagnoses, to job loss – forced stepping out of comfort jones and ultimately more fulfilling career happily ever after. These accounts are quite accurate no doubt, for that is how life works. It’s a chaotic dynamic equilibrium in which persistent strategizing eventually works, as does random events.
Either small gains, or great achievements, always emerge out of most situations. And since finding fulfillment is a whole different matter from achieving absolute success and absolute success can’t be defined absolutely (unless we are talking Bill Gates), all really ends well at the end. The point however is that unless it’s a physical end of life, ‘the end’ is really never an end. It is just the current point in time. Those who are writing those articles, unfortunately will go through both beautiful highs and frustrating lows again.
Therefore, flashpoints, or turning points - no matter what we call them - never stop coming. Most work environments today are going through an interesting dichotomy of ‘take more time to reflect, foster human connections, introspect, go after fulfilment, keep your core values in mind’ but ‘work faster, cheaper, longer, constantly, keep upskilling, ensure continuous increase in productivity (aka increase value to shareholders) and be obsessed about the customer(read work).’ Flashpoints are bound to become more frequent. Less big bangs and more continuous clustered fireworks. And bounce back times are going to be shorter.
For me, given the high flux, high churn and mostly ambiguous environment I work in, it is more a continuous evolution. A point by point (often weekly if not daily) re-strategizing. Those ‘oh my god’ moments followed by months of reflection and nirvana that I thought would happen one, maybe two, times in a 20/30-year career have become the norm. Redeployments, job losses, change of bosses, personal crises will cause no shortage of forced reflections, but it’s almost given that for most of us (barring some who have fallen into a career sweet spot of promised decade long or longer tenure), there will be no luxury of years of introspection driven re-invention. Therefore, this needs to be continuous too.
Below are three guidelines, or verticals as I would call them, that I cluster my continuous career strategizing around. It took me a bit of time to put some guard rails in place instead of the chaotic, frantic, what do I do and what should my career (or life) thoughts be based on (which would often be tailored to nature of the immediate crises) modus operandi. I now find these immensely useful, for doing this frequently is not easy if not made into a structured habit.