Use Hardships to Develop Your Career

Technological changes have been impacting humanity for thousands of years. Although agricultural advancements allowed for population growth and urbanization, industrialization shifted focus away from the creation of sustenance to a primary focus of the development of goods, services and information. A technology-driven society fosters significant changes in the lives of the average man as more people work away from their homes, work is centered on machines and we are inundated with information. Attempting to mentally keep up with rapid change is difficult for many as the division of labor increases, the workforce becomes more educated, business becomes a controlling mechanism, government and the economy become interdependent and geographic and occupational mobility adjust. The shift towards multi-tasking and adding more to-do items to your list drives distraction and incidences of mistake making.

Until more recently, making mistakes was looked down upon and was often accompanied with some sort of punishment. Punishment was often a control mechanism used to limit outliers in school systems and corporate structures because people functioning like robots were easier to manage than individuals with diverse backgrounds, skills and aspirations. Companies like Google, 3M and W.L. Gore are leading the charge in allowing people to make mistakes, learn from them and share their learning with the rest of the organization. Each allows employees to devote 10% of their work week to innovation and the creation of novel ideas that follow the employee’s passion and interests.

As humans begin to make more mistakes there will come an increased level of hardships that accompany the mistakes. The hardships may come from changes in relationships, financial considerations, emotional happiness, spiritual connections, etc. As we encounter an increasing number of hardships, it is imperative that we take the time to reflect on the hardship and conduct a lessons learned session. The goal of these sessions to walk away seeing the situation, yourself and your stakeholders in a new light. The interplay of all interested parties is important as you will garner the most well rounded view of the situation and what you can do to avoid similar occurrences in the future. It is beneficial to share your learning with your stakeholders as they may be going through something similar and your knowledge may be just they need to set right their own ship. It is okay to make mistakes, in fact, make as many as you can. Just don’t make the same mistake repeatedly.

A few things that may be worth noting about hardships:

  • They’re one of the most important learning experiences you can have because you learn lessons quickly and can immediately apply your learning,
  • Consider what the situation taught you about yourself and how you want to change your behavior moving forward,
  • Create SMART goals and immediately begin the process of amending the old behavior,
  • Don’t look back at your hardships and wish that they didn’t occur; look back on them fondly as they occurred to help you develop your skills for something bigger and better in your future, and
  • As our society shifts and the pace of change increases, you will have no choice but to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly so establish a process to deal with difficult situations.

Because the career ladder is being dismantled and is now beginning to take the shape of a jungle gym, you must think about your career development as though you are your own corporate brand. It may be better to take steps backwards or lateral moves to absorb the skills you need to excel in your chosen career. Developing a suite of skills can be more important than titles and pay grades as people prefer to interact with and be led by people who are authentically present. Stick your neck out consistently. Test your mettle by taking risks, failing, learning from the hardship and coming out the other end wiser, faster and stronger. The biggest threat to your career and its development isn’t the person you are interviewing against for your dream job, it is whether or not you pushed yourself to endure hardships and live up to your potential.