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The Big Game

The Big Game

If a huge curve ball comes your way and throws you off balance, keeping your eye on the ball will help you make contact and get on base. 

Our careers and lives can take so much from sports. Any athlete, professional or, in my case, an avid “weekend warrior” knows you need a plan.

So, it’s interesting to me that people don’t often have plans for their careers. And those who do have plans often do not think about the stages of their lives and careers and how their plan may need to evolve with those stages. Some of us start off with a plan and stick to it, then later get distracted and/or go off-plan for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen this from young people all the way to senior-level executives. Anecdotally, I think it happens more often at the mid-point of one’s career.

Hey, I get it. By the time we get into our 40s we have a lot—A LOT—going on, including spouses, kids, aging parents, college, retirement, a home, cars, insurance, vacations, etc...A LOT! On top of all that, here I am suggesting that you think about your career plan.  

Plans are vital to success—a player never enters a game without their own plan. In sports like baseball, it is part of the team plan. And, as the game goes on, situations change. Oftentimes, the tactics will change to match the situation as needed throughout the game, while the planned strategy remains, overall, the same.

When you’re in the on-deck circle and watching that pitcher, you’re looking at the field, who’s on base, the score, etc. You’re planning your strategy when you step up to the plate. You’ve studied the pitcher and the field, and think you have an understanding of their “stuff.” You’re ready...

Hey, Batter, Batter!
This is similar to when you’re 18 to 24 years old. You know you’re headed to the batter’s box and you’ll get your swings, but, for now you get practice swings and you watch, learn, and prepare. We could go back further and talk about practice, about being coached, and learning about the game, but The Snack won’t let me write that much...And I really don’t want to show my lack of baseball knowledge.

Get On First
Somewhere around 25 to 34 is the time that we need to develop our strategy and focus. Now we’re at the plate, and although we’re keenly aware of our surroundings—coaches, signals, the team, and the score—this is the time we zero in on the ball. “Be the ball!” Focus. At least get on base. By the way, I don’t know if I’d suggest any career “bunts,” or sacrifices. I have to laugh because I think I may have had at least one sacrifice earlier in my career...And we won’t talk about the bunts, fly balls, and foul tips.

This stage in your career is the time to take more calculated risks; to learn and grow. Some of us hit home runs or even grand slams while others hit singles, doubles, and triples. All these scenarios put you into a scoring position.

Second Base
From first to second is around 35 to 44 years of age. Ideally, this 10-year stage is still focused on the longer-term goals while building, growing, and thriving. At this stage, you should be solidly committed to your career-path objectives and end result(s). During this period, you’re coming into your own and moving into your most productive and profitable years.

Third Base
You’re now in your peak income years! You’re on the right team (hopefully) and know your game. You have a solid foundation, and you’re professionally at your best—about 45 to 54. With any luck, you’re thriving and enjoying a combination of experience, skills, knowledge, focus, and a clear direction. Ideally, you have a sense of purpose, calm, and balance.

Rounding To Home
I have to say this: Just because you’re headed home does not mean the game is over—not by a long stretch for many of us. I can’t tell you how many professionals with whom I speak to want to keep working and “stay in the game” beyond when they could possibly leave. This is the mid-50s and later, when you get to leverage all your experience, contribute in various ways—grow people, give back, enjoy helping others succeed—and you can continue to build, learn, and grow yourself, too. That never stops.

I hope this analogy is not too much of a stretch. Starting off with a plan and having realistic expectations and objectives for each stage of your life and career can help keep us on track. After seeing thousands of resumes and speaking with hundreds of professionals, it’s become quite evident that we all share many similarities, including these stages of our careers. Even the best ballplayers make errors—strikeout, hit foul balls, and more—we all do! The best learn from their mistakes in addition to their successes, all while getting better with time. 

I recently heard that some products grown in the outside elements can, from time to time, end up tougher than their indoor counterparts. Apparently, without the wind and elements beating them up a bit, they do not need to develop in the same way. I think produce people are the same. So, next time the elements knock you around, remember: It’s life presenting an opportunity to make you stronger, too.

Play ball! 

Contributing Author

Founder and President, Joe Produce Search℠. Joe Produce Search (JPS) is the Executive Search division of Joe Produce®. Joe Produce Search is comprised of experienced search consultants and produce professionals. Our placements range from middle management to C-level positions, throughout North America, covering a wide range of produce and produce-related businesses. Joe Pro Resumes is another service of Joe Produce®. Joe Pro Resumes helps you write and refine your resume to help you find the produce industry position of your dreams. We have written hundreds of resumes for many professionals in the produce business in addition to various related sectors.