Hello professional, what is your shelf life?

I am a successful executive, consistently exceeding performance expectations. I am an engaged employee, a team player and committed to my organization. May I sit back and smile in satisfaction?

Sure, smile you can, says a little voice within me. The voice of my friend, my good sense, I realize. But you need to turn around a little and read the expiry date of your usefulness to your organization.

Really? I wonder.

Hmmm… yes, the voice continues. This date is relative to how you grow yourself with respect to your organization’s growth or change. Without any reflection on your capabilities or potential, you may not have kept pace. Or you may have romped too ahead. In either case, one of you has outgrown the other.

How do I know when this happens, I ask. You can feel it in your gut, it says, provided you are honest to yourself. Provided you do not see it defensively or with a sense of entitlement.

I bristle. Will then my performance that has consistently exceeded expectations have no value? Ahem, interrupts my good sense, this is what I meant by not being defensive. If you are consistently so good, you may have reached your full potential. Think. Are you atrophying? Do you see room to grow? Can you make yourself room to fit you and engage you?

Wouldn’t that be the responsibility of the organization, I demand. I hear my good sense cough another ‘ahem’. See, now you are getting into an entitlement mode of thinking, it gently rebukes. Is it fair of you to expect your organization to offer you lifetime employment? Especially when it may not be able to, due to limitations beyond the blame game on either side? Your excellence is yours. So is your commitment. But do not let them come in the way of your own development, it counsels. Can you think differently? Can you reinvent yourself?

Good sense always makes, well, good sense. It shook me out of my focused but narrow thinking. Just like we are wary of food, however good, that has had an unusually long shelf life, so could my organization. It was up to me to keep my professional life fresh for the future.

However progressive it sounds, reinvention is daunting. But so can spending the rest of my professional life doing a job that is no longer fulfilling. It can frustrate if it is not fulfilling for myself, and it can rudely jolt if it is not so for my organization.

My mind latched on to what Wayne Gretzky the Canadian ice hockey player and coach said. “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.”

So here is what I promised myself I would do.

First things first. No stupid self-denials. Change is imminent, let me get prepared for it.

Next, let me chalk my timelines clearly. How much longer do I want to tinker with the status quo for necessary comfort factors? Before I make the leap?

There comes my next sign. Tap both sides of your brain, it suggests. You will need both logical and innovative thinking to develop feasible new skills and turn existing skills into new assets.

Confidence, courage and commitment will be my best friends, I tell myself. Confidence to overcome doubt and leverage strengths. Courage to take a step back temporarily, if needed, to move forward. Commitment to hold myself accountable to the decisions I will make, without regret or frustration.

Yes, as a professional, I do have a shelf life. But I intend renewing myself to attract invitations from various shelves that interest me. And when I finally step off the shelves, it will be my call – with fulfillment and grace.


About Janaki

As an individual, I love life, friends, books, music, movies, travel, meeting people. I believe that one is only as old as one feels, and that one can find at least one redeeming feature even in the person one dislikes intensely. As a professional, I have, after a 25+ year corporate stint in people management, taken a shot to placing an independent signature in my passion of guiding people and potential to performance and organization success View all posts by Janaki

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