Forget past achievements and accolades; they are mere relics in the ever-changing landscape of the professional world. Your true value, the currency you exchange for success and fulfillment, lies not in your “glorious” past, but in the present moment and the future you can create.
While your past education and experience may offer valuable insights, they are simply noisy signals, fading with time. A decade after graduation, you’ll likely have forgotten most of the hard material, and the traits you possessed then may no longer be relevant or even present.
Don’t let the fallacy of induction trap you. The past is a snapshot, not a prophecy. You are not the same person you were ten years ago, nor will you be the same ten years from now. Age, experiences, and countless other factors shape you into a unique individual, constantly evolving and adapting.
Similarly, past achievements like portfolios, resumes, and testimonials are merely verifiable records, not a guarantee of future success. Your value is not a static sum of your accomplishments; it’s a dynamic interaction between your skills and the current business environment.
Companies are problem-solvers, driven by the pursuit of profit. Your true value lies in your ability to help them solve these problems effectively. Every situation is unique, with its own challenges and opportunities. Your ability to identify these gaps and deliver solutions is what defines your worth.
Forget about ninja skills, esoteric knowledge, or burning passion; focus on what the company needs immediately. A talented programmer might bring disservice if placed in a leadership role, while a conscientious junior engineer may be more valuable due to their organizational and communication skills.
So, why do we struggle to gauge our own value?
One reason is our dependence on social feedback and group standing. We cling to titles and rankings, feeling threatened when they shift. We mistake linear career progressions for genuine growth, ignoring the reality that a junior engineer can outperform a senior staff member.
Instead of relying on external validation, ask yourself: Do my actions demonstrably improve the effectiveness of my team, project, or company? If not, you might be offering “fuzzy value” – motion without direction, progress without purpose.
Remember, your value is not measured by your ego, backstory, or effort. The business world rewards results, not intentions. Let go of the “just-world” fallacy and embrace the reality that success doesn’t always favor the most moral, perfect, or hardest working; it favors those who adapt and evolve.
Many older engineers struggle with the rapid pace of change, resisting advice from younger peers or clinging to outdated methods. This resistance to adaptation can hinder their growth and ultimately make them “un-hirable.”
Like models, performers, and sex workers who capitalize on their fleeting physical advantages, we need to constantly “re-market” ourselves to maintain our value. Clinging to past glories is like a model trying to land a job with a 25-year-old picture.
Knowledge workers are particularly susceptible to overestimating their past achievements. They often believe their peak cognitive performance continues indefinitely, despite evidence to the contrary.
Therefore, approach each situation with a blank slate. Your past is irrelevant to the value you can bring right now. Focus on the present, adapt to the changing landscape, and continuously refine your skills to ensure you remain valuable in the ever-evolving world of business. Remember, your true worth lies not in what you have done, but in what you are capable of doing today and tomorrow.