Car vs Motorcycle vs Jet: My Advice On Career Progression

A few months ago I wrote a blog about career tips which was written as a contribution to the organisational marketing initiative. However, I had also conducted a session 4 years ago in my organisation about career guidance/advice for youngsters.

I remembered that today while talking to a friend about the same topic and thought of writing this post. It was about career progression. I use the same example in my MBA class as well and the analogy I use is that of the Youtube video below involving a race between a car, a motorcycle and a jet.

The three vehicles start at the same place and bike starts off with a great speed and zooms past the car and the jet is nowhere near. Since we know the three vehicles we know their relative strengths. But imagine if these were tiny, indistinguishable dots that were moving on a screen, and if we had taken a snapshot after first few seconds, we would have declared the bike dot as the winner! However, if we allow enough runway (literally and figuratively), the powerful jet would emerge as an undisputed winner! So what matters is the inherent strength of the jet which is far superior than a car or a bike. However, if anybody (including the jet itself) tries to judge after initial few seconds they would do injustice to the “potential” of jet.

Another point of view is that the bike should not think that it was once at par with the jet and even in lead initially; then how come jet left it so behind in the race. Was it bad luck of the bike or some kind of good luck/favouritism towards the jet?

I used this analogy for career progression. We should look at careers in the same way. We should not judge too early just because someone had an easy or smooth start and got ahead initially. The career runway is long enough for allowing us opportunity to maximise our potential. Secondly, (thinking like a bike) just because someone was our peer and at the same point at some juncture, it doesn’t mean that the status would remain the same forever. If someone zooms past us, don’t blame it on bad luck for us and mere good luck for the other person. Yes, the luck does play a role – and often a big role! However, what also matters is the inherent strength (capability) we possess or groom (the engine) and also our appetite to run the long haul (the runway or career span). It depends on the choices you make, the constraints you work under and the appetite/hunger you have for success/growth.

So my advice would be to have a longer runway (long-term view of the career) and a superior and continuously upgraded engine (continuous learning/upskilling) and then wait for the right moment to accelerate!


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