Playing the Career Game - Vegas-Style

Royal Flush

My most memorable vacations are always in Las Vegas.  I love the shimmering lights, people-watching, the fancy casinos, the different nightly attractions like the waterfall of raging fire.  But, let’s get serious.  I LOVE the thrill of sitting down at the table to play a little poker. 

Playing poker can ignite all of my senses.  I always travel to Vegas with a positive attitude telling myself that I will win some and lose some.  As soon as I step up to a table that Kenny Roger’s song pops into my head….”you’ve got to know when to holdem’, know when to foldem’, know when to walk away, know when to run…”  Sorry, I digressed.

Poker is about the excitement of winning a hand, even if it’s only for a dollar.  It’s the anticipation of what card is coming next.  It’s the optimism when a hand is fully dealt.  It’s also that moment when I’m in the groove and winning!  And then there are the dreaded times when I toss in the cards.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how our careers are a gamble too.  I can see the connection between playing that game of poker in Vegas and playing the career game.  You may be sitting in your current job thinking to yourself there has to be more or there has to be something better out there.  If you’ve read my other blogs you’ll notice a theme around the saying “the only thing that is constant in our life is change.”  Because of this, I want to share my perspective on four different career phases in Vegas-style terms.




Playing the Hand 

Tossing In



I will share more about each in a minute. There are many different reasons why you end up in one of these phases.  Lots of uncontrollable events occur in our lives.  In today’s environment, companies are constantly in transformation. They are changing faster than anything I have seen in my 20 years of Corporate America.

You might be experiencing a company downsize, restructure or an explosion of growth. On a more personal note, you may also just be in a company culture that isn’t in alignment with your personal values.  Regardless of what’s happening in the organization, what I do know is that in order for companies to grow they must grow and develop their people.  Maybe you don’t feel like that’s happening for you.  Or you could be one of those not so lucky people who simply have an under-developed leader….do you like how I say that?  Okay put another way, maybe you have really BAD boss that resembles a succubus and is waiting for any opportunity to devour you instead of develop you.  Is that better?  The good news is you have the power to choose how you handle your own career destiny.  You get to make a choice – and that choice is 100% yours. 

I think I just heard a few sighs!  Seriously, there is never a situation that doesn’t have a gift or something positive to take away.  I’ve been right where you are!  I’ve been in some pretty toxic cultures, companies undergoing restructure and growth at the same time, companies that are downsizing, and certainly with an under-developed leadership staff.  I would like for you to open your mind to the possibilities and embrace whatever situation you’re going through.  You can seize the amazing opportunities that lay before you in your career journey. 

Let’s explore each of the four stages a little more in-depth so you can start identifying where you are in the cycle of your career.

We will start with the end in mind and then work our way through the phases.  Tossing in is the phase where things are not working for us in our career and we simply say I’m not doing this or not doing it this way anymore.  For example, have you ever heard the saying people don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses?  I had a client who was constantly feeling under-valued and over-worked.  She worked for a leader who felt the only time feedback was necessary was when something went off track.  The feedback did not even seem to be for my client.  It was really more of a way for the leader to put my client in her place.  Sounds like that succubus from earlier, right??  After enduring years of this behavior, she finally tossed in.  She shared with her boss that she could no longer work under the conditions of the last year.  She stated that if they could try a different way of communicating then maybe she could stay. If not, it was time for her to seek out new opportunities. 

See tossing in isn’t about just moving on to something new.  It’s about re-negotiating, if possible.  One important thing to note in this phase is it isn’t always your choice to toss in…maybe you’ve been tossed on.  When that happens sometimes your inner voice keeps you in a place of resentment. You feel like a victim of the circumstance.  Remember, life is about choices and you still have a choice.  The choice is to move on and find the gift or stay in that victim mentality, hibernating away from the world.  In this situation, my client ultimately decided to no longer tolerate the boss and moved into the shuffling phase. 

Shuffling is a time in your career when you take a time-out from whatever is happening to reflect on where you’ve been, are and may want to head in the future.  In this phase you know that something is just not working for you.  It can bring about a lot of fear of the unknown.  You are just unsure of the direction you should head.  You start to test the waters with your network group to see what value you hold in the marketplace.  You may be in a passive job search fielding calls from headhunters or recruiters to see what’s out there and might be a good next step. Or, you may look for a new stretch assignment that will reignite your passion.  Many times in this phase you feel a loss of control, but you still feel like there is opportunity ahead of you. You will do A LOT of inner-directed exercises aimed at figuring out passions and what to do in life.  You may also have a lot of different emotions that need to be sorted out to bring about a new sense of enthusiasm.

Once you’re done shuffling, it’s time to deal baby!!  In this phase, there is a ton of optimism because you are taking action.  You have your cards in front of you.  You experiment with heavier networking or attend some new kind of training to build a new skill or enhance an existing one.  You have all of the confidence in the world because you’re ready to stretch to new heights.  You put things in order to make something happen.  Your job search may become active.  Maybe you decide to ask your boss for a new project.  Shuffling was all about figuring things out internally, now in the dealing phase you focus outward so you can take action.  You are eager to show your hand and start winning.

Now that you see the hand you have to work with, you begin playing the game.  I like to call this phase “in the groove.”  Maybe you found your dream job and are fully in the moment reaching new levels of success.  Or it could be that you were able to re-negotiate whatever was holding you back in your current role so you feel optimistic and determined to prove yourself.  This phase is the ultimate place to be in your career.  It’s that moment when you look at your poker hand and see a royal flush.  You know that nothing can stop you.

Where are you in the phases?  Sometimes in our careers we have to make scary and hard decisions.  You have to trust your intuition and just make a choice about what you want for your future.  And you need to say it out loud so you can move forward to the next phase. You may fluctuate in between these phases frequently.  I know that I have in my own career from time to time. 

Just focus your energy on playing the game to the best of your ability.  Trust your skills and have confidence that no matter what challenges arise, you will come through it.  As scary as tossing in may be, know that it is an option.  It’s never one to take lightly but a holistic view of your situation helps you make a better decision.  AND, you never know what opportunities await around the corner for you. 

I have clients who thought that losing their job would devastate their life, but ultimately they ended up starting a new business or finding a much better fit for them in their next role.  It’s all about your perspective.  I pride myself in helping my clients move through their phases to exactly where they want to be.  Just know that you are not alone in your career journey.  There are resources available to you that can help guide you through it all.

Good luck in your career journey and play the game well, my friend!!!