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The Career Undertow

April 23, 2015

If you have ever swam in the ocean and had the miss-fortune to get caught in an undertow, you know those brief and scary moments where you mind is racing, your body is searching for the right direction to swim and your lungs begin to feel like they will burst.  Then there is that moment of calmness when you allow yourself to give in to the wave, seemingly like you have given up.  But oddly enough, in that moment there is clarity and sometimes your mind and body react with the proper actions and you are able to recover from the scary incident.
You may have experienced something like this in another way also. It can be described as the undertow of life. Many people tell you to not give in, fight with all your heart, but sometimes the ability to relax in the moment provides you a sense of clarity that helps you identify what may otherwise seem insurmountable.

Ok, now to careers. Work long enough and you will most likely have an experience where you struggle for air and search for the right way to get your head above water. Sometimes that struggle is so intense, we lose the awareness to relax in the moment and re-evaluate the issue clearly. We focus so hard to try to fix or remedy the situation that sometimes our actions can just make the issue worse.

Have you had people tell you to “Just let the process work” or “Don’t push so hard.”?  But the problem is, the process they are referring to is somewhat flawed and if it doesn’t play out right, you could find yourself in the undertow with no way up. That is when the decision on what to do becomes really hard. They are asking you to put a situation that could impact you directly, into the hands of others. What if you don’t have full faith in the process or those who may be managing the process? That is when you feel like you are fighting the undertow and trying to identify the next step. Others will say “just accept and move on”. Ok, nice try. Maybe some peoples DNA allow that but others have a harder time with that concept. (Like me).

So…. is there an answer? Probably not the same answer for every individual and every situation. But maybe there are a few pointers:

Know your own style and seek out assistance before the undertow has your lungs ready to burst. Sometimes gaining another person’s perspective is just the breath of air you needed to re-energize your efforts.

Outline the facts as you see them. Attempt to ensure you are heard. Make sure you realize everyone has their own communication receptors. You have no way to ensure that others will receive the information in the manner you have tried to logically outline. Know they will use their own predispositions and receptors to interpret the facts in their world of reference.

Recognize when the water is over your head. As humans, we sometimes don’t like to ask for help. And sometimes that help is more than just someone’s advice.  If it is a career issue, it may mean additional work, training or mentoring.  If it is a life issue, it may mean a re-dedicated focus to your family, health or loved one.

Realize we all make mistakes. Yes, even those individuals who seem to be fighting you on something. Work to resolve the situation as best possible and then try very hard to move on. In actuality, unless your mistake was one that physically harmed others, it is going to haunt you more than anyone else and that can be detrimental to your long term career and overall health.

And if anyone ever tells you they’ve never made a mistake, just smile and move on :). They just did…..


April 23, 2015
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