Musings on the Elevator Story

Conversations on interviewing and personal branding frequently mention the need to develop an "elevator story," or self marketing pitch. 

Recently I read an entirely different kind of elevator story--a tale of stagnation. In the April 21 edition of the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten discusses the "lives of elevators." He begins with the story of Nicholas White, a former Business Week production manager who worked in Manhattan. In 1999, White took a Friday night smoke break, and spent 41 hours stuck in an elevator on the way back to his desk. His friends and lawyer convinced him that he should sue for damages and he came to believe that "returning to work might signal a degree of mental fitness detrimental to litigation." The settlement was less than he had hoped, he lost a job he'd held for 15 years, and--according to the New Yorker, is currently unemployed. The article concludes "looking back on his experience now, with a peculiarly melancholic kind of bewilderment, he recognizes that he walked into an elevator one night, with his life in one kind of shape, and emerged from it with his life in another. Still, he now sees that it wasn't so much the elevator that changed him as his reaction to it."

To me, the story of White's career post-elevator serves as a reminder: there are aspects of our work lives that we can control, and that which we cannot.  Resilience is a must-have in handling unanticipated "delays" or stalemates in your career. One good source for strategies: Fighting Back: How Great Leaders Overcame Career Disaster (Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Weld, Harvard Business Review, 2007) . The book profiles the rise, fall, and resurgence (or not) of well-known C-level executives. Among the recommended strategies presented for career recovery: "Ignore the advice of friends to lick your wounds," identify what you've done well in the past, build on this and move forward...The authors advise, "No matter how dire the circumstances seem, triumphant comeback is possible as long as you haven't killed anyone."

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites