No one earns the right to “coast” in their career– from the Career Opportunities Podcast

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As you get to be older — I just turned 49 myself — there is a problematic thought process that can creep into your daily thinking. When you are faced with a new career challenge, a new career idea, a new career thought — you balk. You think about all the work that this new thought is going to require and you wonder if it is really worth the time and trouble. To use an older term, you get “set in your ways.” You find the status quo is a much easier place to live. In some cases, you might even be thinking, “Well, I’m not going to be around in this job (or at all) for much longer, so why bother with all this new work?”

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As you might imagine, thoughts like these can hinder your career at a time when it should be experiencing the most success. Let’s call it an advanced form of “senioritis.” I am sure you are familiar with that problem when it occurs with high schoolers and college students. They reach that final semester of their school career and they just stop trying. They want to simply coast to graduation. As you know, of course, this can often lead to some dramatic failures and a semester of Summer school — or worse.

Don’t let senioritis damage your mature career. You need to be as engaged in your career today as you were when you first started. In fact, you should be even more engaged, as you probably have a better position, better pay and, definitely, more power than when you started. It’s true that you might feel you have earned a chance to relax, a chance to coast for a little while. Unfortunately, as much as we might like to believe that this can happen, anyone who “coasts” — at any time in their career — could find themselves without a job. The world continues moving at high speed even if we are coasting, so if you fail to engage in your career you could find yourself falling further and further behind.

While you can’t just disengage and take your “senior year” off, there are ways of modifying or tweaking your career as you get older. First, you can use the power, prestige and goodwill you have created over your career to unload the most unpleasant tasks of your job. If you once had to travel tens of thousands of miles a year, perhaps you can bring in a newer, younger person to handle that aspect of your work. You can then be free to focus on higher-level issues like further building of the business that ensures it will long outlive your retirement and, hopefully, even you. While you can never earn the ability to coast, you can earn the ability to pick and choose the aspect of your job that you most prefer and concentrate your time and energy there.

It might seem counterintuitive, but you can, and should, find new areas of interest and possibility in your career and pursue those, as well. Remember, you aren’t “coasting” in your career, you are simply fine turning it to match your needs and desires as you grow older. Maybe you have always thought that a particular methodology or technology could greatly assist you or your company. Now is the time to dig deeply into an investigation of that methodology while others concentrate on the day-to-day operations.

Finally — and it all might sound a tad cliche — you can also focus more on becoming the wise old sage of your company or industry. The fact is, you will have seen a lot in your long career and those memories can be tremendously important and useful to others. This isn’t a call to stand in the corporate equivalent of your front yard shouting, “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” Rather your past knowledge, combined with new ideas, new thoughts and new, eager people, could create something entirely new and amazing. Your knowledge can help your co-workers avoid common pitfalls along the way to their own career success and help them move onto greater work more quickly.

No one gets to coast in their career, no matter what their age or seniority. Even more, you shouldn’t be seeking to coast out the remainder of your career. The later years of your work life are where you can have the most effect, the most benefit for both yourself and your company. Don’t be the senior in high school who didn’t graduate because they flunked that last chemistry class. Work hard developing new thoughts, ideas, businesses, successes so that you can move on to the next stage in your life confident that you have done your best work. Both your career and your life will greatly benefit.


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