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I’m a classic Gemini.
In my personal life, I love stability and comfort but in my work life, I like new and interesting.
Like Shane Warne, I blame my parents for this more than my star sign.
You see they brought me up with a very solid and secure family life.
We were close and strong and supported each other in our goals and ambitions.
However where ‘professional life’ was concerned, they drummed a different set of values into me.
Where work was concerned, the most important thing was doing something that made you feel happy, excited and challenged.
It wasn’t about throwing your toys out the pram when things didn’t go your way or only going for the easy option … it was about doing things that let you feel you were accomplishing things. Big things. Things that could make a difference to how your life panned out.
Of course it didn’t/doesn’t always work out that way, however one thing that helped ensure I stay on course is – as the old cynic poster I’ve used for this post proudly proclaims – my fear of the comfortable.
I should explain there is nothing wrong with feeling comfortable.
As I said, in terms of my personal life, it is something I regard as very important – however where my professional life was/is concerned, it’s always about moving forward.
That doesn’t mean you have to be blindly ambitious or want to fuck people over [whatever Andy may say] … it’s about having a desire to keep learning and exploring and experimenting, both individually and with others.
One thing that doesn’t mean however, is changing your job every 2 minutes.
Personally I think people change their jobs way too quickly.
While I appreciate some people are underpaid &/or under appreciated – I’d say the number who have a right to say that is far less than the number who claim that’s their motivation for moving on. Regardless, I still believe the optimum time to change jobs is when you start to feel too comfortable with where you are.
You can tell when it’s happening …
You feel very settled in your job. Everyone knows you and everyone likes you – however if you were to ask them why, they’d probably say it’s because of you’re a “nice person” and “you’ve been at the company for years” rather than because you’ve done something really interesting recently.
Part of that could be because you’ve been working with your client and their process for so long that whenever you get a request, you either  know what [you think] the answer is before you’ve finished reading it or  try and remember what you’ve done for them before that can be re-jigged with minimum fuss.
You find yourself saying to new colleagues “that’s not how we do things here” and can write creative briefs in 10 seconds with your eyes closed.
I should point out this does not make you a bad employee or a talentless employee – far from it.
However for me, when I start to spot these situations, I feel nervous and I look to make some changes.
I should point out this does not automatically mean you have to change your job.
Believe it or not, I’ve not had many jobs in my 22 odd year career – and while a lot of that has to do with me being unbelievably lucky in working for companies that wanted to keep pushing and challenging themselves, clients and me … it’s also because I have a desire to keep pushing myself because underneath it all, I don’t think I’m any good and I am continually looking to prove to myself that I might be.
Haven’t got there yet though.
Anyway, the way I’ve been able to ‘self manage’ my fear of comfort is to mix things up like bringing new people into the idea development process … going to chat to experts from other industries to get fresh inspiration and thinking from their news/views and opinions … asking other planners to get involved … pushing to to work on different accounts [which I believe should be something you do every 2-3 years anyway to keep you – and the account – fresh] … work at clients offices for a couple of weeks … come up with ‘research projects’ that would allow me to look at my client’s situation in new ways … asked to get involved in pitches … basically, whatever could shake me from a feeling of comfort, I’ve pushed to make happen.
Of course that doesn’t always work – or it’s not always enough – but what I do know is that if you have a fear of comfort, you will end up meeting, working and doing amazing things with amazing people regardless of your circumstances or situation and that has to be a better starting point than going through the hassle of seeking out a new job. Besides, what you will often find is that if you adopt these sorts of pro-active discomfort ideas, new opportunities will start coming to you rather than you having to go to seek them out.
There is another important reason why you should embrace professional discomfort.
In these bean-counter days, companies want people who actively contribute to their success, not just keep things ‘ticking over’ and so those on a decent salary are under greater scrutiny than most.
It’s all too easy to mistake comfortable for effectiveness, however as the guy who ran GUESS clothing once said:
“I used to think I’d decide when I’d had enough working here, but I was wrong. Companies decide when they’ve had enough of you working there”.
If you can’t demonstrate what you’re bringing to a company – be it clients, profit, new thinking, new ideas – you might find that one day, you are a victim of a company who can’t justify why you should still be there, regardless of past achievements.
But it gets worse.
If a company can’t justify keeping you – at least at your present salary – it’s going to be equally as hard for a company to justify hiring you – at least at your present salary.
Of course some companies act this way because they’re cold hearted, bottom-line focused, anti-employee investing pricks … but regardless of that, being seen as relevant and valuable is an incredible asset and one that should be continually invested in – especially if you find yourself in a situation where you are out on the streets looking for a job, and let me tell you, it can happen to everyone and anyone, no one is immune.
That might sound like I’m peddling fear – and maybe I am, though it’s not my intention.
The reality is there’s a whole host of amazing things waiting to be done and seen, however too many of us miss out on them because we favour a professional life of comfort rather than exploration and for this industry, I find that quite sad.
Now I know you might think this is all very easy for me to say given where I work and where I’ve worked – and I do appreciate I am in a more fortunate position than most because I have been able to move countries for opportunities without causing too much hassle in my personal life – however that aside, I know my fear of being too professionally comfortable has definitely helped me achieve interesting and fulfilling things in my working life and so if you also believe a career should be an adventure rather than just a job, then my advice would be to not just evaluate your current situation in terms of work, position, money, success or ego, you should ask yourself one thing:
“Am I too comfortable?”
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