The three stages of the working man

When you consider the trajectory of the average career, I believe you can pinpoint three stages for homo laborare (the working man) – attitude, aptitude and decrepitude.

1) Attitude: you arrive at your new workplace clean-faced and fresh-eyed, thinking that you know everything and determined to make a splash.  You question why on earth you must follow out-dated, illogical, unnecessary procedures and policies.  Maybe you want to shake things-up, or possibly you quietly ruminate on the silliness of holding yet another meeting to discuss a policy that no-one will look at again.  Attitude, when harnessed wisely, can be a powerful tool for businesses to unleash new ideas and creativity.

2) Aptitude: you now actually know what you are doing!  Through perseverance and politeness, you have gradually mastered the ropes and are ready for increasing responsibilities.  Alternatively, you have perfected the knack of appearing to know what you are talking about, maintaining a cool professionalism in the face of even the most alarming of “crises”.  Aptitude is a beautiful place to be – you have chiselled out a niche for yourself that fits snugly around who you are.  However, beware that complacency does not creep and do not forget to keep reflecting on what could be better.  Viva la revolution!

3) Decrepitude: hopefully, you never reach this stage in your career journey.  Watch out for these warning signs.  Cynicism has crept in and slowly contaminated your whole outlook.  Everything is a plot by management to extract more labour from your contract and any additional demand on your time is met with a semi-automatic lists of excuses, which push responsibility on to others and leave you with a withered husk of actual work.  You know the price of everything but the value of nothing.  Trying to learn a new skills has become almost impossible as your brain struggle to adapt to a different challenge and make connections.  Don’t count down the days to retirement but seize the moments you have left to make a difference.

So that, in my view, is the life cycle of the working man.  You could also label them as enthusiasm, professionalism and cynicism.  Where on the spectrum do you land?

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