Recently, I was invited to speak at the at Urban Land Institute – Women’s Leadership Initiative Regional Summit in Louisville, Kentucky. I was asked to be a “Summit Storyteller”. Sounds like a simple recipe – “Tell the audience about a pivotal moment in your life, with a clear beginning, middle and end, and the outcome, the results, the “lesson-learned” … Sure, great, let’s get started…wait, pivotal moment? Hmmm. This is where I got stuck. To me, at first, pivotal meant life-altering, game-changing, radical overhaul, made-for-television moments with a rebound so profound, anyone would find the story interesting. But… I don’t really have one of those kinds of pivotal moments. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have had my share of challenges, of highs and lows, of plans that have failed. What I’ve come to realize is how impactful are the pivots – the people, things, or factors that have affected my journey. These are the things that have helped me refine my path, affirm my direction, shift my perspective. The search for a pivotal moment led me to realize how I’ve managed to stay on course and not shift from my path. I decided to speak about what has kept me on course with SWT Design and to share my personal journey to leadership.
Becoming an owner and partner of a design firm at the age of 30 was exciting, rewarding, and a little terrifying. What would the next 30 years of my career look like if I was already at the top of my company’s ladder? According to the Department of Labor the average person will change careers 5-7 times during his/her working life. Approximately 30% of the total workforce will now change jobs every 12 months. By the age of 42 one will probably already have had about 10 jobs. The average tenure is about 5 years (the architecture/engineering industry slightly higher at 5.7 years). So why am I a minority here?
A colleague once asked me why I’ve stayed with the same company for so long. My response was, “So long as I’m challenged personally, and able to challenge the direction of the firm, I’m good.” I’m consistently challenged by new responsibilities, and constantly pushing where we should focus next.
The firm I joined 16 years ago was not the firm I wanted it to be long-term; a realization that has evolved over time. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by leadership that encourages personal growth, is willing to try new things and is dedicated to supporting our team members’ passions. As one of three owners, my perspective has most certainly shifted, my stress increased, and my dedication to providing others the same personal growth opportunities confirmed. Now staying ON this track has continued to be influenced by pivots. Job offers to join other companies, the call of parenthood to constantly be more present, the rewards and recognition paired with the failed attempts and refueled desire to get stronger, better, smarter. Each a pivot nudging me forward and evolving my perspective.
So I ask you to reflect on your pivots. What moments have you had that have kept you on course – or perhaps led you to change course? But I’ll also challenge you to consider whether you must change jobs to get what you want out of your career. I encourage each of you to pause to consider the things you could change about your current work environment.