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Are you fit enough for your career marathon?

By: Aquent

DATE: 09 August, 2016

I gave a speech to 1,000 marketers recently. They gave me a standing ovation. “Amazing”. “Loved it”. Those were the two most commonly used phrases as Twitter lit up with feedback. Surprising really, given I'd just told them they faced career extinction. Then I asked them this.

If you retire when you are 65 years old, how many years have you got to go? Less than 10, between 10 and 20, 20 and 30? More than 30?

For most, the answer is startling. They have a long road ahead of them. Given the massive pace of change, that future is uncertain. Here’s the brutal reality:

What got you here won’t get you there.

When I started my career in 1984, sitting on my desk was a typewriter. A few months later, a client asked me to fax him a document. “What the heck is a fax?” I asked. Some of you are giggling at my vintage. Laugh with caution.

In 30 years time, when you tell a 21 year old that in 2015 you were using an iPhone 6, they are going to look at you with a twinkle in their eye and mirth on their lips. Your iPhone 6 will be far more antiquated to them than the typewriter seems to you. After all, there will be more change in the next five years than the past 50… and you have how many years to go until you’re 65?

So, what to do about keeping up with change?

First, be prepared to change. That’s the hardest part of all. You have to keep evolving and adapting.

How? This might help. View your career like a marathon (an idea I learnt from Brian Fetherstonhaugh). Running a marathon needs:

  1. ambition
  2. a plan
  3. preparation
  4. pacing
  5. nourishment
  6. resilience
  7. fans along the way

Then think about your career being driven by ROCKET FUEL over three 15 year periods. These are just broad indicators, but go with the flow here:

  • Aged 20-35 — Fill the tank: this is where you are learning, grabbing opportunity, making those first mistakes, eager for growth.
  • Aged 35-50 — Ignite your strengths: you know what you’re good at, you’re getting better at that as you drive for leadership and influence.
  • Aged 50-65 — Pass the torch: you’re still in the centre of things, but you can see change ahead, and you start evolving your offer to help mentor and guide others: you move from career warrior to career sage.

So, what to do next?

  1. Reality check: First, think about where you are right now on the ROCKET FUEL journey… where are you today on that path?
  2. Ambition: Then create a vivid image in your mind of where you want to be in five years time. Set a date (“Christmas Day 2020”), write down what you want to be able to say about your role. Write it in the past tense, as if it has already happened and has or is being achieved.
  3. Plan and Preparation: Make a long list of everything you need to do to achieve that five year goal.
  4. Pacing: Break it into three phases — 1,2,3. Phase One is the most important first steps you have to take. And get started, immediately.
  5. Nourishment and resilience: Make sure you take care of yourself along the way — physically, emotionally, spiritually.
  6. Coach: Get a coach or ‘conscience', someone who will check in with you along the way to make sure you’re on track.

Oh, and remember the words of Mike Tyson. “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face”. Be ready to adapt and evolve your plan as circumstances change, and as the inevitable ‘punches’ of business and life come your way to disrupt and disturb.

Think of your career as a marathons. Regularly check in on how you’re going in keeping ‘career fit’ for that marathon — where are you on the journey and what do you need to do to achieve the next ‘five mile' (five year) goals. And then develop your strategy to achieve that goal.

It’s the best path I know to keeping relevant and at the genuine edge of your industry, a value-adder always, and still being wanted on the team by all those youngies snapping at your heels. The snapping might not be happening to you yet. But it will. Promise! 


Chris Savage is an acknowledged leader of the Asia/Pacific public relations, communications and professional services industries. Chris was formerly Chief Operating Officer of STW Group, the largest listed marketing content and communications services group in the southern hemisphere with $500 million in annual revenue. he has also held senior positions with leaders of the PR industry over a 25 year PR career. He is a much sought after speaker and trainer. Visit his blog “Wrestling Possums”