Leadership concept

Are You a Part of the Future or Have You Put Your Career on Autopilot?

HELENE CAVALLI , Lee Hecht Harrison

“If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.”

Those words of inspiration from famed college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski were designed to keep his Blue Devils players at Duke University from getting complacent and resting on their laurels, but they’re just as applicable to millions of people in the job force today.

Quite simply, you’re at risk when you become comfortable in your career and go on autopilot. Or you may fall into complacency if you’re not sure where you want to take your career and how it fits within your organization. Resist the urge to do so, put your hands back on the controls and make sure you carve out some time to plan out your continued development.

Your company, meanwhile, needs to ensure it is constantly building talent pools with the newest skills. Are you part of that future or a candidate to be shuffled out?

How do you know if you’ve become complacent in your position? Well, for starters, you probably don’t jump out of bed in the morning eager to get to the office to tackle the day. And once you get there, chances are you do little more than the absolute minimum and do what you can to stay off anyone’s radar.
Quite simply, you’re at risk when you become comfortable in your career and go on autopilot.
Going back to the sports analogy for a minute—what tends to happen to teams or individuals who play it safe and sit back, hoping not to lose rather than going out and trying to win? In virtually every circumstance, they lose.

The same thing applies to your career. If you’re afraid to take a chance and step out of your comfort zone, not only will you likely have a laundry list of regrets once you retire, but you’ll be missing out on what could be some very exciting—and probably higher-paying—opportunities along the way.

Why should you bother if you’re an industry veteran? Well, from a personal point of view, identifying what motivates you will ultimately give you the most satisfaction, a crucial element in your 9-to-5 life, more important than salary in many people’s minds.

So, do your best to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Facing new challenges and taking on new projects that test your abilities will make you stronger and increase the value you’re bringing to your company.

Here are six things you can do to take charge of your career:


  1. Know your strengths.Take stock of your interests, competencies and skills. How are you unique?
  2. Know your reputation.Talk with your colleagues and people in your network to get an objective perspective on your performance.
  3. Know your environment.Do some research to understand what new skills are needed in your function and your industry.
  4. Set goals.Now that you have insight into what your options are, set short- and long-term developmental goals that align with your aspirations and your organization’s needs.
  5. Set an action plan and upskill.Develop an action plan to accelerate learning. Have regular career conversations with your manager and take advantage of organizational developmental resources available to you.
  6. Find a mentor.Connect with somebody you admire who has blazed a trail at your company or maybe even at a competitor. Ask them about the lessons they’ve learned. Seek guidance and advice. Your mentor can also be a great networking source.

If you think back over your life, what are the best things that have happened to you—the experiences where you went out on a limb and took a chance or the times when you sat back and did nothing?