Image by wayne’s eye view via Flickr
My Dad had two primary refuges from work and my brother and me. In the winter it was his shop in the garage and in the summer it was the yard and the garden. He had apparently inherited the ability to grow almost anything from my grandmother. She could take a fallen, brown leaf from a plant and nurture it into full health in the space of a year or two…..amazing.
One of the things I used to kid him about was his penchant for regularly moving shrubs, bushes and sometimes trees from one spot to another around our yard. We used to joke that he was never happy with where God put them and was trying to improve the arrangement. The moved item always seemed to thrive anew, regardless of where he planted it. Now I see what he was doing in a different light.
It is very possible to “bloom where you are planted” and for some, that is absolutely the right thing to do. Using the garden metaphor, the dirt is rich, the drainage just right and the sunlight perfect. You can thrive there forever. Sweet!
However, it may be that things have changed over time. The nutrition in the soil has leeched away, or the drainage is not what it really should be….you can grow, but not healthily. You produce little to no fruit compared to earlier when things were newer and fresher. Well, if you were a shrub, you’d be on my Dad’s “mobile green” list.
Only you can know if you’re really thriving where you are today in your profession. You may need some additional education to bring deeper understanding or new skills to the group you’re with. You may need to help a new team by opening your eyes and experience to a completely different kind of project, product or process, bringing your unique viewpoint. Sometimes you may have to just move to a new place and grow there.
How can you discern whether you really need these kinds of changes or whether you just need to refocus on your current situation and get past this unsettled or stagnant feeling? Here are a few things that may help:
- Ask yourself, “How long has this been going on?” Everyone has dry spells in their career, but if this has gone on over a long period of time, say a year or two, this may actually be a desert and not a dry spell. If the time has been shorter, give it some time. Droughts usually end and your professional life may come back to life. If it really is a desert, it may be time to start looking seriously beyond your present situation. Life is too valuable and your strengths and expertise too valuable to be left to expire in a lifeless place.
- Ask yourself, “Have I really gone as far as my current skills and education can take me?” Given the fluidity of the world of work today, this can happen, even if you read voraciously, absorbing all you can. There are a number of ways to grow into new areas of interest that can directly impact your professional life. Going back to school is one of them. An independently structured plan of growth and study can work, too, based on the learning style you have (I benefit strongly from the interaction of the classroom, so that was one of the key components for me). You can find a mentor that would be willing to spend time with you and guide you along the journey. One note – grow in a direction that excites you. I tried a couple of areas that might have moved my career along, but the passion that the MCDM program at the University of Washington helped me discover and cultivate absolutely changed the way I think and what I can do in my work.
- Can you see something, right where you are, that you can take part in and feeds into your passion, but it’s not really part of your team, part of your job commitments or in your area of responsibility? Talk to your manager and the lead in the other area. See about getting in there and contributing. It can only help the business if they have new eyes on a problem or project….just don’t neglect your “day job”, although it may be tempting!
- Talk it over with trusted friends and colleagues. Sometimes they can see things about you that you cannot see. Listen to them openly and always assume positive intent with them. They will have much to say that will help you.
The path and decision is yours. The thing with life is that it moves and grows….and it’s messy. Don’t be afraid of moving to another place in the garden.