I recently listened to an interview with former NFL player Ronnie Lott. While it is not important all the statistics around Ronnie Lott's career, it is important to note that he is a 4x Super Bowl Champion (San Francisco 49er's) and a 10x Pro Bowl selectee. He has been listed as the #11 player of all-time by NFL.com and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
From what I gathered listening to the interview, Ronnie is currently in somewhat of a scout role for the NFL. He is asked to evaluate players to determine if they have "what it takes" to be a professional football player in the NFL.
During the interview, Mr. Lott began to talk about the biggest thing that surprised him in this role. He noticed a pattern where players just seem to settle...or quit trying to elevate their game even higher...once they make it into the NFL. He didn't understand it, since each player’s entire life journey has one goal — to make it into the NFL. They began to excel as youths (often leading their respective leagues), became standouts in middle and high school, and found themselves under consideration of many team during college years. He didn't understand what happened, but feared this might become a trend instead of an exception.
Where Are You With Your Career?
Ronnie Lott's thoughts made me wonder if a similar situation exists within technology. Most of us realized we had a passion for technology at an early age, often putting in the extra time to learn as much as we could about our new interest. As we continued our education, we found ways to excel with our technology knowledge in order to be the best that we could be. This led us to internships and job offers, placing us into our careers.
So where are you with your career now? Are you still driving forward with trying to differentiate yourself or to elevate your career to the next level? Or are you falling into the same category Ronnie Lott spoke of, where you are merely putting in your time and collecting a paycheck?
What If I Am the Person Ronnie Is Talking About?
If you find yourself merely cruising by in your career, it is definitely not too late. Like so many other things, realizing you are in this position is the first step.
The next step is to figure out why are you in this position? There could be a number of reasons why:
Perhaps you are supporting a technology that no longer provides a challenge.
Perhaps your current job doesn't offer enough challenges or the opportunity to advance.
Perhaps you are not doing the right job.
If your employer isn't part of the issue, it might be a good idea to talk with your manager about your situation. Most likely, your manager has already noticed this as an issue with your performance. If you feel like a change in employment is required, more effort will be required on your side - since you will have to put in the research to figure out where you want to target for your next job. Of course, there are plenty of agencies that will be happy to assist you.
At the heart of every technologist that I've met, there is a deep love of technology. That passion for our field is what led each of us down our career paths. It is not uncommon to find yourself in a position, similar to what Ronnie Lott has been seeing in the NFL. Our industry, however, provides us ample opportunities to seek positions that will bring back that drive and passion that led us here in the first place.
I would enjoy hearing from you on this topic. Have you found yourself into this position before? What worked (and what didn't work) in getting you back on a pace that elevated your career and knowledge?
Have a really great day!