Avoiding complacency

IT seems that once many people reach mid-life they have established themselves in their chosen career and have well-established aspirations. It is a mistake to hang out in this comfort zone, however.

Dealing with the demands of a busy job may coincide with the peak demands of family life and often the goals you once espoused so confidently need to be fine tuned as your vision of ‘career’ becomes clouded by the rigours of the daily timetable.

Whether you are someone who has always worked for one organisation or whether you have played the field, my message is that you cannot afford to embrace complacency.

We all recognise that our world of work is constantly demanding new skills for new challenges. Being able to adapt, tweak, re-evaluate and strategise within the parameters of a discipline are the hallmarks of a true professional. To achieve this you must keep your skills updated and also anticipate what will be required tomorrow.

It is vital that the key competencies for continued success be recognised and addressed if at all possible. In his book, The Titanium Professional, Hugh Davies explores “building exciting, resilient and durable careers through the power of independent capability”. He lists the five key competencies that underpin independent capability across most professional careers as:

p self control and self management;

p initiative/proactivity;

p an ability to empathise;

p effectiveness with others; and

p analytical thinking.

Technical competence in your chosen profession should be able to be taken for granted. In most professional careers this is not sufficient to guarantee success. Most people can quote examples of the master technician, brilliant at that aspect of their job, but an abysmal failure overall.

To be successful one must be an all rounder and it is necessary to hone your skills and to keep yourself marketable. Very often it is your maturity or life experience that will enrich your professional competence.

We also need to explore new responses to old challenges so that we do not continue to make the same mistakes.

We should explore our personal definition of success and once this vital building block is confronted and internalised we should know better how to channel our energies and refine our focus.

It is important to respect that each of us has our own interpretation of the word ‘success’.

What may appear to be the epitome of success may in fact be a camouflage for a deep dissatisfaction or unhappiness in some individuals.

If each of us is to come up with our personal definition of success we need to be realistic and to work towards it without being seduced by the attractions of compromise.

Once we have emerged from this searching process and have developed our goal, we need to nurture and cherish it, often with the sort of live update that enriches our software.

To be constantly reinventing oneself and working towards our goals is a guarantee against complacency and provides an insurance policy for the future. Depending on your situation, perhaps you can afford to be selective about your options.

Measure these ruthlessly against what you value and the outcomes that are fundamental to you.

Should you take a wrong turn, ensure that you are able to reset your compass and aspire again towards your intended destination.

Your mid-career provides the marvellous privilege of the opportunity to make mistakes with time enough to recover.

There is still the chance to take some considered risks knowing that you can recoup later.

Don’t allow yourself to become so busy and demands responsive that you neglect your own needs. This may be the most creative time of your career. Have a good one.

Next week: The reality of retirement.

p Tim Ford was the general manager of people and

organisational development

at BankWest from 1990 to 2001. He now runs his own consultancy, People Innovations, in Nedlands. Contact him at

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