I, The Absolute

Career is a marathon

Posted by itheabsolute on October 21, 2005

A sprinter cannot do a marathon. This is common knowledge. It is also well known that the skills and stamina required for both these are quite different. Being quick to move is the fundamental issue in a sprint. Acceleration is the next important thereafter. But being first to move and acceleration are not any important in a marathon. Stamina, preserving this throughout the race, is important. Planning well and taking necessary pauses are critical too. Usually, many people run 25 % of the marathon and some of them may beat the eventual winner. Some do run 50 % and they may also beat the eventual winner. Only a few remain till the end. And the one, who has planned well, paused at appropriate points and persevered stamina wins the marathon. There are numerous other minor points to take care of too.

It has been my belief that career is no different from marathon. I see of many people who rise very fast in their careers. At 30-32, they are Vice President or some senior member. But even at 39-40, they are still stuck up there. Obviously, they want to become the SBU head and then the CEO. But, they don’t seem to be making it beyond a point. It could be peter’s principle. But I feel, in their rapid rise to the VP or senior level, they have ignored some key points – learning from mistakes, diversified experience, training, lateral thinking, the understanding of markets/customers, developing EQ through introspection, retrospection and working on listening, et al skills. These people are good sprinters. But not marathon runners.

Every career spans some 30+ years. In fact, I don’t think that a person with professional degree will ever think of retirement. He/she will work till he can. Given this, we can only compare career with a marathon, which is an equally long journey. If you don’t plan for the entire 30+ years of what you are going to do, then trouble would start at some point.

That is why an MBA program after some work experience makes more sense. Time at the b-school gives time to think and figure out what one wants to do and how one should go about and what areas one should focus once back in job. Since the person has already put in some experience, he/she knows at least to some extent on what he/she does not want to do and how something should not / should be done.

It is good to be a Vice President at 30-32. Sure. But, if one does not have a plan on how one is going to go beyond this 25% or 50 % mark, then there is something wrong with this fast growth. But at the same time, if someone is still at Manager at 35 there is no reason to give up on hope. There are another 25+ years to go and catching up can be done. Remember, career like marathon is a long journey.

6 Responses to “Career is a marathon”

  1. dinesh

    ur fotographs is good and well conceived.


  2. dinesh, creativenits and jb

    thanks for the good words


    thanks. i wud, however, not bet on a guy who becomes a VP at 32 but is still a VP at 39. he is more probably representing peter’s principle.


  3. Anonymous said

    good to see in writing what u had told while chatting.


  4. very well written indeed!!
    will be frequent visitor now onwards..

  5. Amit said

    excellent post as usual Vijay. However I dont completely agree with it. As in, somebody who is a VP at 32-34 has shown an impressive track record of growth. So, taking an analogy from performance of companies, past performance is a reasonable indicator of future earnings, I would bet my money on him/her to do well in future too. But as you pointed out, career growth in long term is a different ballgame altogether.

  6. Dinesh said

    Awesome analogy! and as always, very well written..

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