Have you ever had to take a step backward in your career, perhaps accept a lesser position or lower compensation? Or a step backward in the marketplace-deferring a near-term opportunity in favor of a longer-term one? The path forward isn’t always a straight line. If you’ve ever gone backward in life you’ve probably found it difficult at best.
As most of us are achievement oriented, we push forward, not backward. We look for ways to make progress, not digress. We don’t like the thought of giving up ground. Psychological studies confirm this.
- We place more value on what we have than what they don’t have.
- We will spend more money to keep something than to replace it.
Yet sometimes digressing or giving up something along our careerpath, at least temporarily, is exactly what we need in order to grow and succeed in the long-term. If we are currently in or approaching an unsustainable set of circumstances, we may need to stop and take a step backward.
Going backward can be a trivial decision or a life-changing one. It can involve a minor inconvenience or a major overhaul. It can be a brand new career or a slight role change. The key is that it be OUR decision and not one thrust upon us by a soft job market. When faced with the decision to keep forging ahead or taking a step backward, the first decision is “can I make what I’m currently doing work by continuing ahead?”
If your informed answer is “no” then the next question is “how far backward do I need to go?” You generally wouldn’t need to go back to the very beginning or want to give up any more ground than you have to. Any amount of going backward can be tough, but starting over can be overwhelming.
You don’t need to build all new skills if you have existing skills you can leverage…can you spell transferrable skills and strengths? Starting over may seem attractive, but it can create as many new problems as it appears to eliminate. While it may seem like the easiest option, it can be the laziest which is rarely the best.
When confronting difficult issues, address the source of them without creating unnecessary new ones. Keep what is working. Only go backward far enough to learn what needs to be learned and do what is needed to get back on track. Once addressed, refocus on going forward. Let go of your prior concerns. Accept that you had to take a step backward. It’s alright. It was actually part of a bigger step forward. As the cliché goes, just don’t throw out the baby with the dirty bath water… Keep the baby!
Consider what part of your life – professional or personal – may no longer be sustainable. Are you dealing with a chronic issue that is so debilitating that you can no longer ignore it? Are conditions so challenging that you need to rechart your course… getting so difficult and complicated that the effort is no longer justifiable? Are your habits moving you further away from your desired future instead of toward it? Have the ‘next steps’ along your careerpath become so dysfunctional that you can no longer handle it?
Consider the following nautical wisdom…
The PESSIMISTS complain of challenging conditions…
The OPTIMISTS expect the conditions to change soon…
While the SKILLED Sailor simply adjusts his sails!
Back to ‘real life,’ now, Ask yourself:
- Has this situation gotten to the point that the effort is no longer justified for the return I am getting?
- Would the time, money, and effort of going backward be repaid in a reasonable time frame if I chose to stop and go backward?
- If I keep doing what I’ve been doing, will it merely exacerbate the situation?
- Am I putting another temporary fix in place that doesn’t address the real issue?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your situation is a candidate for stopping whatever you are doing and taking a step backward. Rather than perpetuating your difficulty another day, release, cycle, or occurrence, accept responsibility for making a change.
Admit that maintaining the current direction isn’t sustainable. Rather than continue to treat symptoms, decide to address the source. Rather than maintain the troublesome status quo, identify what needs to change. Is it you? Probably. Is it also someone or something else? Probably. Accept the need for change and rather than cover up, cope with, run from, or overlook the inevitable, decide to address it.
Once you have decided to stop and back-up, solicit the feedback and help of others… return to an informational networking approach in your job search, seeking wise counsel. Have the conversations that need to be had. Involve your key stakeholders. Do the research and analysis needed. Identify the issues to be addressed, learn any lessons to be learned, agree on the solution that solves the issues, and edit your Personal Marketing Plan to be implemented. Do what is needed to start heading in the direction that enables the future you desire.
Adjust your own sails!
Take heart. Most every great advancement was preceded by a step backwards. Most every success was preceded by a failure. Most every self-improvement was preceded by adversity. It is through mistakes and obstacles that we gain experience and grow.