A handy mnemonic will help you move beyond past glories and focus on the future.
Share this article
Do you remember carol singers? We read recently that they are in sharp decline. Between technology fuelled erosion of physical community, a growing consciousness about diversity of faith, and of course the pandemic, they are taking their place alongside penny for the Guy or hiding sixpence in a Christmas pudding.
In some ways this is sad, but healthy societies must evolve, must grow, and reinvent themselves. A common bias in our thinking is rose tinted nostalgia. Particularly as we near the end of the year, we find ourselves with an unusual surplus of time.
Work generally pauses for a few days. We spend time with family. And we are surrounded by an idealistic depiction of tradition. Consequently, we can easily get swept along lamenting how things are not as good as they used to be. We fall into the trap of confirmation bias, cherry picking examples that support what we want to believe.
This same thinking can apply to our careers. We are tempted to focus on how we want them to be, not how they are. Without some objective process of evaluation, we can persuade ourselves that past glories will sustain us into the future. Of course, they won’t.
This is why it is useful to have a framework when we are thinking through something important. Taking stock of where we are in our careers is often one of the most popular subjects to ruminate on at Christmas. So, in the spirit of celebrating traditions of old, but keeping us focused on our present and future, we have developed the following festive career mnemonic:
C is for what you CARE about. Ultimately, great careers are anchored by fighting for a cause.
Often, we get confused by thinking purpose is about something grand, like changing the world. The truth is that it could just as easily be about providing a good life for a family or allowing you to do something you love. Remind yourself, what is the thing you care most about.
Check whether it has changed, evolved. Is there reason to believe it may have changed for you over the year?
A is for what you have ACHIEVED. Careers are not linear.
There will be bumps and deviations. We will sometimes make compromises, postpone our own dreams while helping someone else. It is important to take stock of whether we are on a path that aligns with what we care about. Are we getting closer, or have we navigated further away? Be honest with yourself about whether a course correction is required.
R is for RISKS. We do not spend enough time thinking through what threats exist to our careers.
Is AI an existential threat? Are we in a business cycle that threatens our industry? Is our employer/business facing hardship? Do not kid yourself there aren’t risks. Think about whether you should be proactively reskilling, reinventing, and reimagining yourself to be a surfer on any waves of disruption…. rather than drown by them.
O is for OPPORTUNITIES. We advocate testing job markets once a year.
Moreover, you should always foster options. If you feel your opportunities are light, a clear goal for the new year is to invest time to create at least two or three.
List your opportunities and as dispassionately as you can rank them based on (a) the one that brings you closest to what you care about, (b) the one that has the best future, and (c) the one that excites you the most. If your current job doesn’t score the highest… it’s time to act.
L is for LUCK. What’s the difference between luck and planned serendipity? In our experience successful careers are forged by individuals’ who are constantly looking to make new connections, to learn new things, and to experiment with new ideas.
In this sense, we think they create a greater opportunity for ‘luck.’ Think about two or three things you can do in 2024 that will expose you to new industries, new technology, new people, and new ideas.
Whether this is further education, volunteering for an NGO, mentoring some young entrepreneurs, or even launching your own business venture. Commit to try at least one new thing.
S is for STEPS. Distil how your voice sounds when you sing this carol.
Then think about three very practical small steps you can take in January. Steps you are excited about. The main goal is to create momentum and nudged you forward. Forcing you to confront misconceptions that the best was somehow behind you…instead of just ahead… within your grasp.
As 2023 draws to a close, we wish you a merry Christmas and happy new year. Now altogether, “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining….”