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Useful Metaphors for Career

10 March 2022

The right words at the right time are invaluable.  

Here are four short sayings I have found useful when it comes to career.  I'll share more in future posts.

Take those below and examine the wisdom they may have for your career.

When a plant outgrows it's pot you re-pot it otherwise it struggles and dies.
While there are always ancillary reasons for staying put, you know you have outgrown your current role if you are no longer learning and growing and being pleasantly surprised by what you uncover.  If you have outgrown your current role staying pot bound means you are taking up an opportunity that someone else would have the opportunity to flourish in, and you are suffering the opportunity cost to your own career of what else you could be learning and contributing.

Crafting a career is like driving a car at night.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
I have paraphrased the author E.L. Doctrow above, but the analogy is so powerful for career that I use it again and again.  One way I use this is when people talk about career as a destination:  think - be a policy analyst, be a manager, be a surveyor...  Their focus is on where they are going to get to.  The approach I encourage more is to hold a five year destination very lightly (I call it a Five Year Fuzzy) and instead focus on the direction and the immediate steps you can take in the next three to six months that take you in the direction of the destination.  As you progress it is inevitable that things will come up that refine your destination, and that is exactly what you want to happen.  Having the destination though is important.  Without it you don't know what direction to head in, and taking action is harder.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Continuing the theme of growth, a growth/learning mindset is a fundamental for a flourishing career and learning inevitably takes you out of your comfort zone. Outside the comfort zone you are more likely to experience Flow, which is the ultimate drug for a flourishing career. Being in your comfort zone is useful while you consolidate learnings, relationships, and innovations, but don't stay there too long.  Celebrate the spiciness that comes with comfort being uncomfortable.   Once you start looking there are countless ways to slowly expose yourself to things that might currently be uncomfortable, and in doing so grow your comfort with them.  Here is just one.

How you do anything is how you do everything.
Talking about discomfort, I remember the prickle of discomfort I had the first time I heard this saying.  Were there clues in the way I cooked the evening meal with how I approached my career?  When I paused and examined it, there sure was.  An enlightening element of this saying is that it can be easier to see unhelpful patterns that impact career by looking at your approach in different domains where it is easier to see how you operate.  For me an enlightening pattern I saw in my preparation of evening meals led me to a deeper understanding of a restlessness I bring to career (and some other aspects of life).

What sayings, metaphors or quotes have helped you in your career?  Let me know for potential inclusion in the next version of this post.

As always, wishing you a flourishing career.


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