A former colleague called me the other day, fatigued.
She was working harder than ever, she felt, and not getting anywhere.
At the same time, she was seeing peers seemingly move ahead with ease.
What was she doing wrong?
Nothing, I assured her.
Some of us improve our strength and stamina by climbing the stairs. Others get the express elevator to the top.
It’s not fair, of course.
If all things were equal, we’d each press the button, call the lift, and elevate ourselves with little effort instead of treading a CareerStairClimber to nowhere.
This lack of transparency over who moves up and how quickly and how high is a major factor in employee turnover. When the rules aren’t clear, the stair runners may wonder just when they’ll reach the top and whether the climb is worth it. It’s just one reason why Men Rise and Women Bounce and others want to Lay Down the (Career) Ladder.
If you find that you’re always tiring yourself by taking the stairs and not enjoying the daily steps, you may want to re-evaluate where you’re headed.
Where’s the top floor in your mind? What will you find when you arrive there?
Consider what benefits you’ll discover along the way – the challenge of each step, the people you’ll meet and travel alongside, what you’ll learn about yourself, and the skills you’ll gain given the difficulty of the ascent.
You’ll likely wind up more accomplished, more self-sufficient, and more confident than those who press the button and – poof! – transport themselves to the upper echelons without feeling they’ve earned it.
(Though I admit, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?)
Miley Cyrus says “It’s all about the climb,” but is the view from the top worth the effort?
So, what can you do when you find yourself StairMastering to nowhere or, worse, Running the Stairs for Someone Else’s Hot Dog?
Take stock of the following:
OBJECTIVE – What’s the goal? A specific title, salary, or promotion? Whose goal is it – yours or someone else’s expectations?
ASSISTANCE – Who might lend a helping hand? A mentor or sponsor? A coach or valued friend? Elevator operators are a thing of the past but that doesn’t mean you can’t employ others for a lift.
ENERGY – Ascending steep stairways can be exhausting especially when your Get Up and Go is Gone. Give yourself time to rest on the landings in between each flight. Catch your breath before tackling the next.
STRATEGY – Is there an easier way to get to where you want to go? Perhaps you’ve been so focused on your daily climb, that you didn’t even notice a different path nearby. Why take the stairs if there’s an escalator?
LEARNINGS – Sometimes the path of least resistance isn’t ultimately satisfying. What are you doing, finding, and learning along the way? Don’t be so focused on reaching the top that you forget to celebrate small successes!
If you want to reach a goal, start with a Single Step and then Take Another One. They add up.
And don’t begrudge the guy on the elevator. Elevators can be crowded and claustrophobic and sometimes break down between floors. What will he do then?
Valerie Gordon is an award-winning television producer, author, and the founder of career and communications firm The Storytelling Strategist. She speaks at conferences and works with corporations to train future leaders and build strong, equitable teams. Read more stories from the blog or connect with her on LinkedIn.