Earlier this week I had breakfast with one of my younger brothers, to catch up and to do a little bit of career counseling. We’re 10 years apart in age, which means that I’m hitting my stride in my career and he’s just getting started in his.
He has a few frustrations with his current job situation. Which seems odd to me, because all the other people in the entire universe absolutely love their jobs! All kidding aside, I wanted to have breakfast with him for two reasons. First, to share whatever insights I can based on my rather short career progression, and second, to find out more about what he’s wanting to do with his life, and how he plans to get there. As I found out, he’s got some serious career decisions to make.
My brother and I are alike in several areas, including enjoying sports, being athletic, and (of course) our dashing good looks. We are both fairly competitive, and I beat him on the golf course every time we play. Wait, that’s not a…whatever. We both like to golf.
We both desire to live a slightly counter-cultural lifestyle and he wants to have a family one day, like I have.
We both work hard, but in very different ways. I enjoy working with my mind, figuring out problems, troubleshooting issues, advising people, and improving processes. He enjoys working with his hands more, being outdoors, and making something beautiful.
And that’s a key difference! It means that the types of employment he seeks are in industries that I don’t understand very well, and from employers that are very different than mine. But no matter the employer, there’s a critical element that should be part of any job.
Looking back on my 15-year working career and comparing my journey with my brother’s 5-year working career, he’s making some strides that I had not. He’s been working a solid job, making his way up the proverbial ‘ladder’ for the last 3 years. It took me 8 years of jobs before I held one down more than 2 years (IT work in the early 2000’s was not a good place to be).
On the other hand, he’s struggling in an area that I had no doubts about: I knew exactly what skill set I was developing, but he’s still not sure what he really wants to do with his life. That’s an important piece of the foundation when trying to build a career.
One other thing that stood out to me while talking through my brother’s situation is this: Trust and Experience are major factors when building a career. When you start with a certain skill set, then begin building rapport with an employer using that skill set, you gain trust. As time goes by, that trust grows, and your experience grows with it. If you are working for a good company, they will recognize your development and compensate you appropriately.
When you’re young that’s tough to see. My brother sees opportunities to grow in his job, but doesn’t trust the company to allow him to do that. He also doesn’t feel like his company trusts him, even though they claim he’s one of the best employees they’ve ever hired.
To me, that spells trouble.
Trust From Your Employer
When your employers trust you, they want you to grow. They make it a priority to see that you receive challenges that stretch you, grace when you fail, and give every opportunity to build confidence in your ability.
As you grow in your skill level, you also grow in the mind of your employer. You become more than a commodity, you become someone who’s “on the team”. Your insights and recommendations no longer have to be measured against the best interests of the company, because you’ve proven that you already have the best interests of the company in mind.
Compensation usually follows this trust. Not instantly, but a trustworthy employee is huge to an employer. You’ve become worth much more than your skill set would suggest, and a good employer understands your value.
Trusting Your Employer
Your employer has a track record. Other employees have likely come and go, been promoted or not, and been treated fairly or unfairly in the past.
Putting your trust in employers to take care of you when they haven’t demonstrated that in the past is like playing the lottery. Sure, it might happen. You might “hit it big” and be elevated when others have not. But do you want to put your career up against those odds?
Some employers don’t want to grow their businesses. They want to maintain, which means keeping costs down and job descriptions constant. They aren’t going to provide many opportunities to grow.
Planning For The Future
In my brother’s case, he has a desire to grow. He wants to lead, to see change, and to provide excellent results for his employer.
However, his employers have demonstrated over and over that they are not in a growth mode. They don’t give employee reviews and aren’t looking to retain their best people. They are not running a company I would want to work for very long, especially at his age. He’ll be experiencing a lot of life changes over the next 10 years, and working a dead-end job (even though he enjoys the work) will only frustrate him more and more.
Looking back at my career, I can see where the biggest income boosts came from. And they didn’t have to do with knowledge, they had to do with trust. I trusted my employer to do the right thing, and they trusted me enough to want to retain my services and help me to grow.
As the new year begins, I wish you well in continuing to climb whatever ladder you have before you. But I highly recommend taking a little time and considering whether your ladder is leaning against the right tree. Once you trust that it is, you’ll be able to work hard and confidently expect results from your labor.