Career lessons from a dead cat

Finding the neighbour’s cat by the back fence at 10 o’clock last night, surrounded by our three dogs, wasn’t the ideal way to end a long day’s work. Especially since the cat was dead. (And no, the dogs did not cause the demise; they only discovered it.) But it made me think – while most of our lives aren’t as fleeting as a feline’s, there is as much need to capture the best of our time at work as we should with our friends and families. Sure, “life is short,” but your career is even shorter. Seize the moment.

Too many of us allow our careers to be dictated by the whims and fortunes that happen to pass our way. But with many people above the age of 40 considered past the “sell-by” date, your career may represent less than a quarter of your life. It goes quickly – and for most of us it has a disproportionate impact on the rest of our lives. Unless you have a wealthy family or a trust fund, it’s likely you are saving or have saved for a house and have put money aside for your retirement. So how much you save and how quickly you get there are clearly imperative.

Control your career path

While it’s naïve to think that you can carve a perfectly planned career path – I’m not even sure what one is – there are a few lessons to be learned. One of these is to keep your eyes open and be prepared to take chances. As I often think to myself, you rarely regret doing something, but it’s easy to look back and wonder why you didn’t do something.

So pick your companies, your bosses and to a lesser degree your colleagues, to make sure that your career works for you. You may not think that you have much control over your destiny, but you do. A great attitude, hard work and a willingness to take appropriate risks go a long way. So keep learning and growing, absorbing experience from all around you. And seek opportunities for change. Even from a dead cat.

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