Managing Your Career Briar Patches
In the children’s book story classic, the B’rer Rabbit, the smart and cunning rabbit gets himself unstuck from a tar pit by getting the fox to throw him into a briar patch where the rabbit feels most comfortable and the fox wouldn’t dare go. In the end the fox is outsmarted by the rabbit and the rabbit gets away. Few animals, or any of us, know what to do when caught in the thorns and the density of a thicket. But, like the rabbit, some love to be in the place of the prickly briars as they navigate better there and find safety and security in doing so. The same can be said in our careers.
Recently, I have been helping to recruit a CEO out of a position that from my vantage point is a briar patch where I certainly wouldn’t go. This CEO is in a very tough job in a small town that doesn’t add anything special on the home front. The CEO has issues with the Board, co-workers and the overall business model. Yet, when presented with an opportunity to address all of the downsides of the current job, this executive says, “I have only been here a few years and as tough as it is, I know I am here to grow and learn through this stage of my career.”
It’s been an interesting recruiting challenge to have someone know they could do so much better in a new role but want to finish what they started. By staying they are potentially missing the career move that could jettison their career forward. This CEO is familiar and comfortable in the briar patch. And, I suspect that down the path this executive will end up being wildly successful because of staying put as they are learning from this hard and challenging assignment.
I tell this story to others who may feel like right now they are in the thicket of their career with a job that feels like there are thorns all around them. If we become comfortable in how to manage within the thicket and navigate among the briars, then we can build confidence when stuck in one place where we don’t want to be or no one else would dare go. It could well be that in that moment that we differentiate ourselves from all others in our careers.
The last few years have definitely been the briar patch for many. But remember, if that is you, then you have gained the experience of endurance, perseverance and most of all, how to make the most of what may have felt like the worst. And for that, no briar patch in the future will look daunting to you.