Communications Careers: Measuring Progress in Steps Through Peaks & Valleys

A Guest Post Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM

I recently read an inspirational tweet about progress being measured in steps.  Achieving success in your PR, communications or any career is about putting one foot in front of the other and repeating the process.  Over time, by following this mantra, you will get where you want to go.

Communication CareersThere are caveats to this.  If you keep putting one foot in front of the other and there’s a cliff in front of you, you’ll fall off.  So we need to add into the mix, progress is also about making smart decisions and being on the right path.  Hills and even mountains can be surmounted with this simple approach.

To illustrate how far you could go, assuming you could walk on water and the world was flat if you walked 10 miles every day in 10 years would have been able to walk around the world.  You can go a long way with small steps.

This reminds me of something my former boss at Morgan Stanley told me when I lived in Japan.  In life, the progress we make is a series of steep inclines followed by plateaus.  In other words, steps of the kind that take you higher.

Communication CareersI had not thought about this for a while.  But it’s very true.  The idea of steep inclines and plateaus is instructive for a number of reasons:

  • When we are going up the incline it is the time we learn the most and fastest. This may be the result of taking on a new job or working on the launch of a new campaign or learning the fineries of Social Media.  Because you’re on a steep slope, if you look down or up – the experience can be uncomfortable and lead to doubt.  In these moments we face our fears and make choices.  Do I stretch myself and continue up or give up and go down to the comfort of the plain below.
  • Getting to the top of the hill takes work and you are in competition with a lot of other climbers. There simply is no other way.  In a rapidly changing world, if you are not going up you are likely falling behind.
  • When you get to the top of the hill you will have an opportunity to consolidate. You will realize how far you’ve come and how comfortable you may now feel.
  • But, of course, when we get to the top of the hill, we know we will see the next mountain range ahead of us. But knowing that we were able to get up the first incline, provides the strength to keep going.

Our career or entrepreneurial journey’s all follow some version of this path.  We will find valleys or obstacles in our path to be overcome.  Some will at decide to pursue a different path or career that forces us to surmount new and unfamiliar terrain.  All of us will come to a place where we may say enough is enough.

With this in mind, it’s worth stopping for a moment where ever you are in your career to ask yourself:  Am I growing.  Am I going up the incline or am I on a plateau?  Am I stressed, because I am learning or because I’m not stretching myself?

Picture3As you think about your career, thinking about where you are in the context of these steps and plateaus may well be a powerful way to understand the challenges you face, get over doubts you may have and recognize that you are not the first on this path.

I once spent three days hiking in the Himalaya’s with the goal of seeing one of the most spectacular views of Annapurna, the world’s first 8,000-meter mountain to be climbed (I encourage you to read the book).  The climb was unceasing, but we stopped at tea houses on the way up to rest and recuperate.

The first morning was the hardest and scariest, with sheer drops to the side of us.  But once I knew, there would be respites and had got through the first sections, the climb got easier.  At the beginning of the third day, we were rewarded with spectacular views.

I could have gone even higher, but for me, I’d achieved my goal.  It was time to focus on the next objective.  This is important because the measure of achievement is not about becoming a CEO, it’s about feeling that you’ve got to where you wanted and fulfilled your potential.

Success is achieved by putting one foot in front of the other on all types of terrain, but it takes effort and making good choices.  We also need to stop on level ground every now and again to gear up for the next incline in the knowledge that you’ve succeeded before and will do so again.

Watch a video summary of this article on the CommunicationsMatch YouTube Channel.

Simon LockeSimon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTMCommunicationsMatch is a search tool that helps companies find communications agencies and consultants by industry and communications expertise, location and size.  The site has 5,000 agencies and consultant profiles in areas including crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography, and video.  Listing & Search are Free.  See more articles on our Insights Blog.  Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.