Stay frosty people

Working in an area you love is great, but can it last and for how long? How do you continue to stay driven, challenged and find satisfaction in your professional career. Charles Watson outlines his methods and meditations for ongoing career satisfaction.

Having been in my area of expertise (yes, I used that reference) for over 15 years, and having advised clients across all industries, there is a good chance I’ve heard all possible 39 stock plots and most variations. Sometimes it is difficult to not know how a client’s background briefing is going to finish, and within a few sentences of them starting. I think my peers at the same level of experience would feel similar.

However, I don’t necessarily relish this apparent quasi psychic ability of knowing what the client is going to say next. I am not taking that ‘ability’ as a badge of cynical honour. Rather, I need to make sure I don’t turn into one of those world-weary advisors who take no challenge from the needs of clients, and play act like they are interested when they interact with clients. Worse still are those who no longer stay current with their knowledge. I’ve worked with these types in the past. It’s like walking through waste deep mud i.e. difficult, dangerous and messy. Plus, it has a negative effect on a team and I will not tolerate it in mine.

I continue to care what my clients are going through and the anxiety their problem is creating for them, even for those clients who are more challenging than others. I continue to love nothing more than sorting a client’s problems and managing a team of rock stars.

So how do I stop the negativity from happening? Well, what I do may be different from what works for you, but this is me.

Consider value

To overcome the potential for this to occur, one has to turn their mind to continually considering new options to respond to client’s needs. Can we do it better, faster, louder, more effectively. Can I make it easier to service clients’ needs, or make it easier on them? When it comes to clients and work you are doing for them, always be thinking.

Where is the current value to my clients from what I do and where is the value coming from in the next couple of years. Besides my awesome personality and sense of humour, why are my clients paying me for my pearls of wisdom? Can you automate something or is the actual human service and advice part of your unique selling points that clients want?

Plan a challenge or several

Another technique I use is to plan challenges. I remain pretty inquisitive about many things so for me setting down some challenges isn’t hard. There is always something new to learn. From a professional perspective I do an annual list of issues to tick off when I have accomplished them every year. That being said I also include personal challenges because not everything is about work and achieving personal challenges adds to your professional skillset.

This is not quite an Oprah vision board type thing, but rather a clear list of desired accomplishments, both large and small, to be achieved in the year. Each year the list changes and it covers a range of primarily professional development related activities and learning new skills. These range from reading certain books and undertaking further studying, including formal and informal, through to joining and participating in networks and working out a plan for the next step in the career.

I have done this for a few years now and it works for me. Its written in thick black texter and it is on the wall of my home office. When I walk in the door, I can’t miss it. Doing it this way means I can’t make it disappear like what can happen in an electronic diary and then be overlooked and then forgotten entirely.

Hearing but not listening

Many of my clients don’t need me until they need me, and I respect that. If I haven’t heard from them in a month or two, I will attempt to touch base with them. When I call them, I bring up anything that might be of relevance to the particular business and then I ask them how their business is going. At that point I generally shut up and let the client tell me as much or as little as they feel. I let them talk and I listen. I “actively listen” which always leads me to learn something new from my discussions. Whether it be something about the client’s business, human nature, an interesting anecdote, or something unique about what my client does, I’ve grown as a result of that conversation.

Find a mentee and share

If you’ve been doing something long enough to get to the cynical place, chances are you probably know enough that its worth sharing with a fresh to the coalface individual. Offering to mentor an up and coming individual is a great way to stay challenged and help to produce the next generation of your profession. A mentee probably doesn’t want to hear your life’s history, but rather incorporate your active listening and then offer some insights and advice on the issues they are facing. If done properly it’s a good thing for you and the mentee.


If you want to stay challenged and engaged then periodically consider why you do what you do. Find some quiet time and ruminate on your life, the universe and everything, but give it a strict time limit or you could contemplate everything for a long time and get nowhere.

Also consider whether you should still be doing it. In a previous article about applying the Marie Kondo process in the workplace, perhaps contemplate whether what you do continues to give you joy or not. If it doesn’t and you can’t get it back then start your succession plan and your exit strategy now. If it happens to me the plan is to sail around the world until I find ‘it’ again. But I remain ambitious, look forward to growth, remain excited about learning new things and look forward to new professional challenges, so the global sailing trip may have to wait until retirement.

To quote the Roman era philosopher Seneca from his “On the Shortness of Life” from 2000 years ago- ‘It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it…we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…Life is long if you know how to use it’.

Charles Watson is an experienced workplace relations and governance practitioner who loves what he does.

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