Stephen Covey’s Big Rock story provided the inspiration for this month’s issue.
A time management guru was speaking to a group of type “A” personalities. He placed a wide-mouth gallon jar on the table in front of him. Next to the jar was a collection of fist-sized rocks. He carefully filled the jar with the big rocks, until he could fit no more.
He asked the group, “Is the jar full?”
Everyone responded, “Yes.”
He then pulled a large bowl of gravel from under the table and proceeded to pour the gravel into the jar. The gravel fit into the spaces between the rocks. He again queried, “Is the jar full?”
“Probably not,” was the group’s reply.
He reached for another bowl, this one filled with sand. He dumped the sand into the jar. The sand filled the spaces not taken by the rocks and the gravel. Once more, he asked, “Is the jar full?”
“No,” everyone agreed.
Finally, he reached for a pitcher of water and poured water into the jar until it was filled to the top. The time management guru looked at the group and asked, “What is the point of my illustration?”
One man replied, “That no matter how full your schedule is, you can always fit one more thing into it.”
“No!” the guru responded.
The point of this illustration is, “If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all!”
The moral of Covey’s story is: Get the important things figured out first, then fit everything else in around them. In other words, know what your priorities are.
So, how does this apply to your career?
Take the time to figure out where your career fits into your life and how much importance you want it to have.
Consider the following:
First and foremost, how much time do you want to devote to your career at this stage of your life?
Are you driven by the need to grow your career?
For example, when I was in my 30s and into my 40s, my career was my top priority. Getting ahead and being successful drove me. I had to give up a lot to get it. I ignored everything else in my life at that time.
How much time are you willing to devote to getting ahead?
What are the things you’d be willing to give up (e.g., relationships, friends, leisure pursuits, time for yourself, etc.) to achieve your goal?
Do you want to work for yourself or for someone else?
Do you want to work for a large corporation, small company or in academia?
In a for-profit or nonprofit environment?
What skills do you need to use in your job/career to function most effectively and to make the most impact?
Do you know what your skills are?
What type of boss do you want?
I have a client that has a knack for choosing bosses. He knows himself and what type of boss he needs to function most effectively (one that will give him independence and promote his career development within the company). His career has skyrocketed because of his ability to select the right boss.
What this boils down to is the need to know what’s important to you and to choose situations that will further your preferences.
Frequently, you end up in a job because a relative or friend thought it was a good career. You never chose. You let other people decide for you. Whether out of fear or lack of knowledge, this is a mistake.
You turn around, you’re thirty or forty and hate your work. You ask yourself how you got here and how the heck to get out.
Better to do the work up front. Take the time and do the soul searching, whether on your own or with help, but do it.
At any age, it’s important to know what your “big rocks” are. Then, you can start to have the balance you want in your life/career and the satisfaction of knowing you chose your goals.
“The Career Coach”
by Gordon Miller
I like Gordon’s book because it’s interactive; he offers assessments and quizzes at the end of each chapter. A sampling of his topics include: how to map out your career as part of a strategic plan; how to become proactive, rather than reactive, so you don’t miss out on opportunities; and how to bridge the gap between where you are in your career and where you want to be.
“Now, Discover Your Strengths”
by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, Ph.D.
Before you can set your priorities and function at your highest level of achievement and happiness, you need to clearly know what your unique talents and strengths are. This book helps readers discover and capitalize on their specific strengths.