Remembrance Day inspired career lessons

Making the link between Remembrance Day and our careers may not be obvious, but as I considered the themes captured in ceremonies across the country it occurred to me that there are many lessons we can learn from the contributions we recall on November 11. Here are just 3 to reflect on:

Risk: No career accepts risk as a given quite like that of the military. In our own careers, we can learn from the approach that risk is something to be managed. Even in extreme circumstances there are things we can do to affect outcomes. For example, workers over 50 talk openly about the risks they are facing in the workplace. Focusing on balancing risk with return helps when you find yourself presented with a non-traditional opportunity which has others shaking their heads and furrowing their eyebrows, such as changing companies, roles or starting a business. The approach is equally valid for those in corporate life since, in this economy, staying still and not actively managing your own career is also fraught with risk.

Be bold and balanced. Understand the risks you face and ensure you weigh them against the possible reward.

Service: Most careers serve others in some capacity or another. Whether by the very nature of the job or indirectly, the minute we interact with our colleagues, managers, customers, or suppliers, we begin to serve. Do you provide knowledge, support, ideas, or solutions? Do you directly impact the way others feel about or manage their lives, their assets or their own career activities? One key element to a successful career is that it provides a response to a need that is recognized as having value. This is the most critical difference between a hobby and a second career, a distinction which people who are moving into the retirement years want to understand.

Looking ahead, makes sure you know the value you want to contribute and how can you be of service to your family, friends, employers, communities and the world at large.

Strategy: Like the previous two points, no other word is most often linked with the military than “strategy.” Successful companies acknowledge the benefit of careful and focused strategic planning and often have whole departments or senior-level individuals dedicated to the development and implementation of the strategic vision. But what about employees? When was the last time you actively planned your career path? When could you confidently answer yes to the question, “Do you know what you want to be doing in 5 or 10 years time?” So often I hear people expressing doubt that an individual career strategy is effective after age 45 since there is no guarantee employers will support the plan created. However, in this era where individuals are working for 20-25 years past the traditional retirement age, a plan for later life careers has never been more important.

Create a strategy for your career that aligns your passion, skills and practical needs. It will help you make better risk/reward choices and keep you focused on the true service your skills provide.

Remembrance Day is an opportunity to stop and reflect on lessons learned from the past and remember those who have been in service. By relating this day to our careers we ensure that the contributions made are relevant and applied to our own lives, every day. Through our careers we, too, bring honour to ourselves and our communities when we do the work we are meant to be doing.

Photo © Arpad Benedek

Toronto-based entrepreneur Lisa Taylor runs Challenge Factory, an exclusive “day-in-the-life-of” service geared towards empty nesters, career-change-minded professionals and retirees. Whether it’s test-driving your next career move, or simply working off your bucket list (e.g. experiencing a unique job that you’ve always been curious about), Challenge Factory offers comprehensive aptitude tests/assessments, and then matches clients with an expert from a particular field of their choice – so clients can live a life from their dream career for a day. For more information on our services, please visit the Challenge Factory website: