By Dorrie Greenfield
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint”.
As the Chief Talent Officer, this was the most important takeaway from Brian Fetherstonhaugh’s Lunch & Learn session. When speaking with us on career strategy, he went through many of his key ideas included in his book, The Long View: Career Strategies to Start Strong, Reach High, and Go Far, using his career history and practices as examples.
Fetherstonhaugh breaks up everyone’s career marathon into three stages. The first stage he calls discovery and career fuel building, which is when we discover what we’re good at, what we like, and more importantly what we don’t like. Then we enter the second stage, where we can focus on a job and reach as far as we can to stand out in our roles. The final part of our marathon is the “go far” stage, where we have become an expert in one or more areas and must turn this expertise into a new flame to keep our fuel going. As people are starting to retire later and people earn 88.5% of their personal wealth after 40, these stages can seem daunting. However, Fetherstonhaugh equipped us with some tools to keep our fuel going all the way throughout our careers, no matter when we finish the marathon.
To start off our race, Fetherstonhaugh shared with us what he thinks is the worst career advice that someone could give: “just do what you love”. He advised us that we should do follow a path within our “true career sweet spot”, which he laid out to us in a venn diagram as the intersection between what we like to do, what we’re good at, and what the world values. He explained that you could have a passion or a hobby that you absolutely love, but if you’re not competitively good at it or it’s not a useful contribution to what’s going on in the world, then it won’t give you sufficient fuel to finish your race.
He also highlighted what he calls the “Four Golden Questions,” which are self-check-ins that help you to maintain your fuel throughout the career marathon. The four questions are:
- Am I learning?
- Am I having an impact?
- Am I having fun?
- Am I fairly rewarded?
These questions are essential to making sure that you’re on the right path and maintaining your career fuel. The common thread between all of these questions Fetherstonhaugh emphasized was continuing to learn. He stated that if you don’t continue to learn all throughout your career then your answers to the other three questions are probably not “yes.” If you want to make it through the marathon, you must continue to learn. If you are not learning, you know it’s time for a career change.
As millennials, Fetherstonhaugh’s advice to us was not only useful but refreshing. We are caught in a paradox where we’re programmed to make decisions solely based on what’s best for our future from the time we’re 16, yet we’re constantly told to relax and “just do what we love” and everything will fall into place from there. We’re success-hungry and treat our careers as a sprint to the top, not taking into account the possibility of running out of fuel before our time is up. Fetherstonhaugh’s guidance on career path decision making, strategy and self advocacy (as he calls “being your own brand manager”), was realistic and sustainable.
He didn’t diminish the importance of liking your job, but emphasized the need to be good at it and a valuable player in today’s market. He gave us the daunting statistics about how long we would be working for, how much wealth we would accumulate and when, and how long it takes to become an expert at something (100,000 hours!). However, he also equipped us with useful tools to build our skills, decide if we were on the right path, and to stay fresh. With his advice in our career arsenals we can better navigate the corporate world and, hopefully, have enough fuel to run our marathon.