The business world is evolving, and so is how you fit into it. Organizations have adopted layoffs, reorganizations, leader changes, and strategy shifts as the new “gold standard” of doing business. But what at first glance appears to be terrible is actually an opportunity for incredible freedom. You now have the freedom to move around, to try out a new job, or even a new career. Job-hopping doesn’t raise red flags the way it used to. For some, this new reality is heaven. For others, it’s so unsettling it prevents them from focusing on what they were meant to do. But make no mistake about it: the day of having to carve out your own career path is here; you can no longer rely on a company to do it for you.
As you’re carving out this path, it’s good to know what type of businessperson you are. Are you a long-distance runner? Or a sprinter?


The Long-Distance Runner

If you are slow and steady like a long-distance runner, you probably thrive in environments where you can see things through from beginning to end. You’re good with managing the day-to-day tasks required to maintain a successful business.

As a long-distance runner, you keep a steady pace but don’t rush. For you, it’s more about consistency and long-term impact. You tend to have patience and appreciate the work that goes into getting things done right the first time. You don’t get discouraged with a lack of immediate change. You prefer things to evolve slowly.

But as a long-distance runner, you’re more apt to be blindsided by today’s new business environment. You have to guard against getting so set in your ways that you don’t see the landscape around you changing. You may not recognize when you need to find a different running trail, or when you should temporarily switch up your running style. And by the time you realize it, it may be too late.


The Sprinter

Then there are the sprinters. You show up with sudden bursts of productivity and then disappear to rest and refuel. You get things done quickly. In fact, you get more done in an hour than some people get done all week. The downside to this is that once people get wind of your glorious spurts of productivity, they start expecting that level of output hour after hour, as a long-distance runner might achieve. But you need to refuel, step away, and disengage.

As a sprinter, you thrive in new, different, and even chaotic situations. You like to start things explosively and create momentum. But once things settle down and switch to maintenance mode, your brain tends to disengage. If you’re not in a business market that prioritizes fast and intermittent services or products, you may be seen as unreliable and flakey. However, if you work in an environment that requires on-the-spot problem solving and constant reinvention, you’ll be viewed as a star performer.


The New Golden Employee

Back in the day, it was the long-distance runner who was likely to be seen as the golden employee—a loyal employee who showed up every day, worked steadily, and produced consistent quality. But as technology advanced and change became the norm, the long-distance runner was—ironically—left behind. Today, they’re often viewed as stuck in their ways, resistant to change, and not agile enough.
It’s the sprinter who has moved from being seen as unreliable and flakey to innovative, responsive, and driven. A résumé filled with several jobs now says “diverse background” instead of “sketchy work history.”

The truth is, we all have to know what type of running we’re ideally suited for. We have to seek out environments and roles that sync with our running style. And we have to pay attention so we aren’t caught off guard, so we have time to adapt when our running style is no longer needed.

Can you do that? Can you switch up styles? Can you go from long-distance running to sprinting? Can you stop your urge to sprint and settle in at a steady pace? If so, for how long? And how well? The answers to these questions will not only help you in making decisions about what job suits you best, but they will also assist you in deciding when a situation is worth working through—and when it no longer serves your purpose.

While it might seem like sprinters are the “cool kids” who are securely in the lead, in reality, the race is starting to even out. Companies are beginning to recognize they need a diverse team of talent that can handle the sprinting and the long-distance aspects of a business. Which means there’s room for both, but you need to be the one who manages how you are leveraged.


About the guest post author:

H.V. MacArthur brings over 20 years’ experience in helping people blaze fulfilling career paths in an ever-changing work landscape. From serving in the military to carving out her role as a coach and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, MacArthur has built her expertise from hard-fought career choices. In her new book,Low Man on the Totem Pole: Stop Begging for a Promotion, Start Selling Your Genius (2018), she helps people from all walks of life—from C-suite leaders to employees on the factory floor—learn to identify their unique callings and find their greatness.

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