With workshops touting, ‘Talent trumps experience every time’, meaning a talented person can figure out more things than someone with years of experience, we start to wonder is it time to just back away? I’m taking nothing away from talent. A talented person is one you might not have to spend much time in training, they understand right away. It’s a pleasure to work with someone like that. But there are people who have years of experience to offer when the going gets tough, and they can figure out a way to resolve a thorny problem. Doing the same thing day after day for twenty years may not require originality or innovation, so again I understand why a talented person seeing the problem with new eyes for the first time will come up with a whole different approach. I just don’t what to discount what a seasoned individual brings to the table.
Where do you stand in this continuum? I believe we need a mix of people in the workplace. In fact, I think it’s the diversity of the mix that fosters greater innovation and achievement. We need both young achievers and tenured individuals who have faced a crisis or two in their experience. If the two can collaborate, the results are astonishing.
So when is it time to just walk away, like Hillary Clinton, Tim Geithner, or Jodi Foster? They are hardly ‘old’ in the modern sense of the word; in fact they may be at their peak of competence. Perhaps they are starting a new life, or going into new careers. Maybe they are taking a break to reconsider their choices up until this time? They are going to change their personal brand into someone different than before.
At some point, we look at our personal brand and what it has come to mean to us, to our employers, families and friends, and we decide that we want to do something different. It could mean we take a hobby or pastime and turn it into a second career. It could mean we no longer want to put in the 40-50 hours a week in that corporate job and desire a kinder, gentler existence, possibly working part time. I doubt that Tim Geithner is going to be a greeter at Wal-Mart, but there are things he could be doing that would not be as ‘taxing’ as his former role.
The question that seasoned individuals often face is the surprise of others who cannot understand that they might want to slow down and smell the flowers. Some friends recently sold their home and possessions and bought a trailer that will enable them to travel the country. One spouse has a financial consulting practice that he can manage ‘on the road’, the wife just wants to see things she’s never seen before whether it’s Washington D.C. or Yellowstone National Park. Many friends questioned this new direction; others were downright envious and wondered if they too could take the same steps. What’s a life for anyway?
The other thing that people who examine potential changes in schedule and lifestyle face is the lack of understanding by companies, bosses, hiring managers. How many times has an individual been told, ‘you’re overqualified for that job’ when all they want to do is exercise their skills and talents, get paid and go home at 5 pm every night. They no longer want to climb the career ladder. They are not interested in proving how talented they are. They do want to contribute. They do want a paycheck, but maybe they’d like a few less headaches. Why is that so hard to accept?
Allowing your personal brand to age gracefully means that the choices that were suitable five and ten years ago, are no longer appealing. You might accept a position that former colleagues feel is beneath you, yet you are completely satisfied with it and enjoying life. Others may doubt the person’s sincerity. Somehow this person must be looking to grab the top job, or jump ship to another firm at the first chance. It’s very hard to convince a younger overachiever that you are fine with the here and now, because it fits with your overall lifestyle.
Can others allow us to pursue these new options? I think we need a new paradigm. As a society, we need to give ourselves permission to move in different directions, to the side and not just up; and take away the stigma on those not wanting to be so hard-charging and ambitious. Let’s agree to a new kind of diversity, a diversity of direction, a brand that is allowed to grow past the hurdles of yesterday into something that is rewarding and no less our personal choice.