Lewis Carroll never imagined how the cleverly written tales of Alice would apply to 40+ workers managing their careers. Sometimes the wisdom we need is there all along as we read this tale with our children and grandchildren. Here are three quotes from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland to help you think through career management strategies:
“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
We are constantly changing and so are our career goals. What was acceptable in our twenties or early thirties—constant travel, working weekends, missing holidays and school events—becomes less acceptable to men and women after a decade or more. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In, advises young women to not rely on their companies or mentors for career advancement. Her advice is to join Lean In Circles for support from other women, marry a spouse that will be an equal partner at home and behave more confident and ambitious at work. She’s a 44-year-old, billionaire, daughter of a Ph.D. Mom and physician Dad, married to the CEO of SurveyMonkey, former U.S. Treasury Department Chief of Staff, former VP of Google and twice graduated from Harvard with honors. Her experience in Corporate America is nearly fictional on so many levels; it’s a separate blog post. For the rest of us, age tends to bring workers (male and female/ executive and non-“C” suite) to a point where we recognize “the working to live or living to work” paradigm shift.
“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there”
A few years ago I read about the most common career missteps in a book called Chasing Stars by Boris Groysberg. Even though it focused on Wall Street investment bank analysts, there were two things that stood out about changing jobs. One is don’t chase the money and leave for a salary boost. The second is getting so angry you move “from” a bad work situation “to” a situation that is not well researched. I’ve watched people leave jobs for a $5,000 annual salary increase. The net increase is laughable. I remember being recruited to talk an employee into remaining with the company as an HR person. We discussed the total cost of the move and I focused on total rewards beyond pay because the employee was certainly giving up a lot except salary. Even after our conversation, he couldn’t save face so he left anyway (and stayed on the new job two years). The same employee committed both mistakes. He was looking for a new job because he was passed over for a promotion. Emotions lead employees into many bad decisions at work. Create your career goals when you are not at an emotional high or low. Try to map out what you plan to do in the next 6 months, year and five years. What will it take to get there? Who can help you? What’s your game plan if your career hits a speed bump?
“Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”
Believe in Yourself! As you move into your 40s, 50s, 60+ at work, it requires effort to keep your confidence high. Later in your career, the chest-bumping Lean In-type of horn-tooting may not be appropriate. Despite career bumps you have experienced personally and watched happen to others in Corporate America, recent research shows Baby Boomers are working longer than ever. So, how do you keep one foot in front of the other moving forward? You have to believe in yourself, your goals and at times in the impossible. The Queen’s advice to Alice is my advice to you. You know what you know. Own it. Even if you are not quite sure where you are going, you know what you’ve already conquered. Go into this week being you’re A-B-C “best” Accomplished, Brilliant, Champion of your own career.