There’s one topic about careers that’s rarely discussed

A decline feels like you’re at the sunset of your career. Photo by Steve Halama c/o Unsplash

I have been a podcast consumer for a couple of years. This year, podcasts became my companion while working from home. I’ve listened to a range of topics from beauty, productivity to conspiracies.  An episode that is very close to my heart and my favorite in 2020 is from Adam Grant’s Work Life about Career Decline. 

According to Grant and his guest, Career Decline is a personal phenomenon when our career staying power wanes, when we no longer have the same technical adeptness that we had before. Career Decline is often attributed to age but it can happen to anyone who is still at “their peak”. Also, there is a tendency for people who have achieved excellence in their careers to feel decline earlier than others. 

Of all the career development material I’ve consumed in the past 7 years or so, I don’t think there was any guru who touched on this topic in-depth. Unfortunately, it seems this is something that employers or HR professionals don’t address either. For one, nobody wants to admit that they are declining. That would be embarrassing, especially if you are someone who’s achieved so much. Second, employers expect their people to be in tip-top shape and contribute to the organization, well at all times. Third, we can’t afford to concede to decline when we have families to support or other ambitions to achieve that hinges on our career success. But with the pandemic hitting hard on many people’s careers, I think even those that have not acknowledged their decline may finally be reflecting upon this phenomenon in their lives. 

One of the things I learned in the past year is that we need to have a balanced and realistic view of your situation so we can decide on our next course of action correctly. While a decline does reflect on certain skills and abilities that we once took pride in is losing its power, it is also up to us not to let that define the rest of our career trajectory. Perhaps what we can best do out of the situation is to let our decline pave the way for our revival, an opportunity to re-invent ourselves and use our acquired skills in a new way. An example shared in the episode was a musician who felt his decline while at the supposed peak period in his career. He decided to be a teacher, a profession that lacks willing headcounts across the globe. He was able to continue using his musical skills while serving as a mentor to others. 

As we take time to rest and reflect during the last few days of 2020, I hope that you, my reader will be kinder to yourself if you are ever in a phase of decline. This does not reflect the decline of your whole life. It’s up to you to take action and create your revival, harnessing your prior skills and intelligence. Take the opportunity to decide on this on your terms, lest other people will decide this for you. 

PS: A great article quoted on the episode is Arthur Brook’s “Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think”

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