After almost 20 years in business it’s not likely to expect that your career will skyrocket and that you will suddenly get a huge promotion and reach a totally different salary grade. Of course, exceptions are possible and I’m sure we all know some, but for a majority in mid 40’s – career development is pretty much over. If you are a sales agent at that age – it’s quite clear that you will remain one. If you are mid-management, without a clear and already defined path to go down – you are staying in the middle. If you are a specialist, you are going to continue to be specialist… We see that every day.
During this period of life you have two options: to be in peace with this fact or to continue trying to change something. Change can be accomplished right where you are or you can try to find a better place for yourself.
While chasing change can be highly frustrating and mostly unsuccessful, being in peace with your defined position is comparable to having diabetes.
It’s serious – but you are not going to die from it. If you behave smart and remain disciplined, along with nutrition and medicaments. Isn’t this similar to everyday work where you can survive and live a decent life as long as you perform your tasks as expected?
You can’t eat sweets, but you can eat some substitutes. Yes, your employer will send you to some trainings and team buildings from time to time, to fake the image that they are still developing you. You will not get the real thing – events reserved for the special ones. Best trainings and access to key meetings. But maybe substitutes to sweets are good enough? It’s very individual.
You can also cheat from time to time and take something sweet. Like, jump into the race for promotion or a role in a different department. This will bring you some temporary enjoyment, but you will be all sweaty and exhausted right after it’s over. And you will need more medications.
Middle aged employees should be the best category of employees in general. Experienced enough and still with enough energy and drive. But why do we mostly see experienced and skillful people with the drive of a zombie? Doing their tasks with the same enthusiasm diabetics inject insulin into themselves? Is it possible that corporations in fact do not expect more from them? Is the whole system created to prevent real teamwork and opportunity for every individual to show its full potential?
Part of the trouble lies in the fact that after 20 years in your field of work, you know what is needed to go to the top. Along with some skills and some brain, for the most part what is needed is to walk over dead bodies. I know this sounds like a cliche, but it is true. There is a certain level that you can reach as a decent, caring person, who deals with business issues but also works with people. It’s a level of mid management. I’m not saying that all top executives are some kind of monsters, but you need to distance yourself from the real life or your employees in order to deliver results that are expected from shareholders. And honestly – I understand them. It’s not possible to run a huge business under huge pressure for an ever-increasing amount of money and to be genuinely interested in the problems of too many of your employees. If you tried to do that, you would go crazy in a second. It’s just that some top managers are doing this with more, and some with less style. But, watching this for ages, and not managing to find the same thing in yourself, simply disqualifies you from the race.
Spending decades in one company is another reason. Today, in IT, I hear that fluctuation of employees is huge. And that’s a great thing! It will probably bring some other issues in time (like, a lack of belonging and feeling of safety which we also need), but traditional corporations where people spend 15, 30, even 40 years of their career lives are perfect environments to develop this corporate diabetes I’m writing about. If you change your industry or environment from time to time, career progress is not your only thought and the only source of your satisfaction or dissatisfaction. You learn new things, meet new people… Even if you don’t get a better position and more money, I think it’s healthy to change after a while. Like when you see people with new partners. It gives them new energy. Their personal problems will not disappear but they will get a breath of healthy energy to deal with them. So, if you can’t change your family, your kids, your neighbours, your height or the color of your eyes: change the job!
The third reason for this business diabetes are life circumstances. If you are a regular, ordinary person like me: wife, two kids, apartment, pet – all in proper timing and in usual life stages -then your mid forties correspond with the highest demands on your family side. You are tired from your kids being little and demanding, and you are approaching the stage of your life where your kids are growing into teenagers and making your life as miserable as it can be. It’s not rare to see families of people on the very top of corporate pyramids suffering a lot, or to see the people on top with no families at all.
I guess that all of us, upon finding out that we have some kind of a permanent condition, first become scared then start crying. I always say that in today’s world we have enough time and opportunities for more than one career. So there is no reason to cry over this one. But some balls are needed to make some good moves.