Don’t Let Short Term Thinking Derail Your Career

On Sunday, Charles Patti, a faculty colleague of mine at the University of Denver Daniels College of Business, had an article in the Denver Post called, “Think Long Term Like Cathedral Builders Did.”  He highlighted the Cologne Cathedral which took over 600 years to build and the Duomo Cathedral in Milan which took nearly as long.

Charles was making the point that successful business focus on the long term.  He decried the rise of what he calls short-termism in modern business.

I bring up the idea of short-termism here for a different reason.  Too many people develop a short-termism approach to their careers.  As soon as they get into one position, they begin thinking about the next step on the corporate ladder.

There are dangers in doing this.  Keeping your eye on the next step may cause you to make decisions and take actions that are not in the best long-term interests of your organization.  Here’s an example…

Before she retired, my mother was an office manager in a K Mart store near our home.  At one point, her region was conducting a contest.  Stores were competing to see who could generate the most revenue over a weekend.  Her store was in the running to win the contest.  The store manager asked the ten people who worked in the office to buy a new TV that weekend.  He told them that they didn’t even need to pick it up or unpack it when they got home.  They could return it the following week for a full refund.  Those ten TV purchases put the store over the top.  They won the contest.  The store manager got a bonus and was soon promoted to being a regional manager.

This is short-termism at its worst.  The store manager made a decision that benefited his career.  But it had a negative impact on the business.  The TV sales were not real sales (I’m not even going to get into the ethics of this situation here).  Besides that, there was a lot of unnecessary paperwork involved in processing the transactions and the returns.  This was wasted time and effort – time and effort that could have been put to better use.

That’s pretty bad, right?  Eventually, these antics caught up with the store manager and he found himself looking for another job.

Here’s another point that I often make with members of my career mentoring site.  While most of us think of our career progression as a ladder, it’s really more of a climbing wall.  Sometimes you have to laterally, or even a half step down to get to where you ultimately want to go.

Take a long-term approach to career planning.  My friends at Careeralism offer a variety of course that can help you with your career planning.  Be willing to make a lateral move.  Lateral moves can round out your experience, making you a more attractive candidate for a promotion in your company, or for a job with a different company.  That’s smart career management.

Here are the two points I want to leave you with today.

  1. Do your current job to the best of your ability. Make decisions and take actions that are in the best long term interests of your company.
  2. Be willing to take lateral moves that round your skills and experience.

If you do this, you won’t be falling into the short-termism trap when it comes to managing your career.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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