Career Success = Job +Company + Industry

Jill Carson’s post, “Trends and Timescales” covers three perspectives we all need to properly think about our career paths. Imagine these as layers of an onion. We should consider, A. How we perform at our own jobs, B. How our company performs within our industry, and C. How our industry performs in the world. Added up over time, these determine the success of our careers.


Working from the outside in, the trajectory of our industry matters. Some industries’ sales are growing, others are shrinking. Some industries see their costs rising, others see them compressing. Some industries are cool (blockchain), others are necessary (dentists), and yet others are passé or feel dated (most brick and mortar retail). We should know these industry level trends of revenue, profitability, and consumer preferences for our own industry.


In the middle is our company and its trajectory. We should ask how our company is embracing or bucking any industry trends. Is the company a market leader and innovator? Is it behind the curve? Can we catch up, or when will the competition catch us? On what levels – Revenue? Profits? Preferences? We should know what our company’s primary objectives and views are about the industry.


At the core is our own performance. How does what we are working on relate to what matters at the company and industry level? Is what we are being rewarded for aligned with the overall trajectory? Do we have control within our job function to better align ourselves for the future? If the industry or the company is in decline, how and when do we jump ship? If the industry or the company is growing, are we in the right role?


People rarely talk about what Carson outlines in her post, especially in mature and/or declining industries. These ideas are so important to grasp, especially for young or new employees. What made the soon-to-be-retiring crowd successful is not the exactly the same as what will make the just-hired crowd successful. Whatever the “seasoned” manager says they did when they were starting should be assumed to be one part gospel and another part garbage. The smart managers know this and communicate it, the less-than-smart ones don’t. Carson’s model helps us to formulate that view for ourselves by adding broader context.


We should also practice predicting which trends look long-term/multi-year/permanent (secular) and which ones appear temporary/bound to reverse at some point (cyclical). With practice and perspective, we can develop a feel for giving ourselves context and time frames. At first, this will come from talking to smart, more experienced co-workers. In time, we’ll develop our own feel and learn to really set our own course.


These are all conversations that need to be had, openly and honestly. Do check out Carson’s post and give this some deeper thought.

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