We all know someone who constantly brings up their past, especially the achievements from their youth. There is the high school sports star who mentions that championship soccer game every chance she gets. Or the friend who had the starring role in a college production and tells you about it every time you attend a concert or movie. And there is the colleague who had a piece of poetry published, or the one who won the debate contest. You’ve heard all of the stories many times, and you wonder why they can’t move on.
Similar situations exist in the workplace. There is the salesman who talks about a big deal he negotiated years ago, the associate who helped the agency survive a crisis a few years back, and the lobbyist who had a past political victory. They all appear to be resting on past laurels. You wish they would simply fast forward to the present.
In the work setting, accomplishment is temporary. You may be thrilled to be selected as the employee of the month (and that is a positive thing), but 30 days later some other name is added to the plaque. At the end of a year, few can recall all 12 people who were honored as outstanding employees for that year.
If you are in fund development, grant writing, or sales, you may have a quota for raising a certain amount of revenue, acquiring a set number of grants, or selling a certain number of products. At the end of the year, your boss may acknowledge you for doing an outstanding job. You may receive a raise, a bonus, or even be promoted. And immediately thereafter, a new (and generally higher) goal is assigned to you.
A promotion is a recognition of your ability and hard work. It comes, however, with increased responsibility and a demand for even more effort. What you achieved in your past position won’t figure very much in the new job. What will count, and what you will be evaluated on, is what you can accomplish going forward.
An outstanding career is built on a series of accomplishments, not a single event. You may be dubbed “a wonder girl,” but you don’t want to be thought of as a “one hit wonder.” Acknowledge your successes, but don’t dwell on them. Instead keep your goals focused on the future. Let those behind you rest on the laurels.