#Speed, #Velocity, #Acceleration and your #Career

In a recent post I  provided insight about the positives and negatives about my past education and experience as an engineer.  Being an engineer has a number of benefits and it can also have some challenges that come along with it.  Today’s post will use some language that seems to fit well with the engineering world, but I also believe these words fit the Career world as well.

Speed, Velocity and Acceleration are all basic terms in the type of physics called Mechanics.  There are a number of other terms I might include, but for today we fill focus on speed, velocity and acceleration.

Here is my layman’s definition of each of the terms:

Speed is the rate of distance traveled over a given period of time.  We often think of driving when this is described, and Americans will think of Miles per Hour while most of the world will think of Kilometers per hour.  Both describe moving a distance over a given time.

Velocity also describes distance traveled over time, but an important difference is that velocity also incorporates distance.  You might say your car is going 60 mph, but the velocity would also need some type of directional description, such as north, south or whatever direction you are heading.

Acceleration is the rate of change in velocity.  Hearing this you also assume, rightly so, that acceleration takes distance into account.  That would be true.  Acceleration can also be positive or negative, based on the represented direction.

Now that the mechanics portion of this post is over, let’s talk about how this translates to your career.  Speed is easy to visualize when you think of your career.  Here are a few items that might cause your career to “speed up”:

  • taking a new job
  • getting another degree
  • taking on additional responsibility
  • accomplishing a large project successfully
  • taking on a new task

Each of these would add speed to your career.

How would these contribute to velocity?  You remember that velocity involved direction, so Career Velocity would involve moving toward a certain direction or goal you might have.  Your goals might be to become a department manager or to become a Vice President.  Items listed above could provide both speed and velocity toward that goal.

It is possible that things you are doing might add speed, but not necessarily contribute to career velocity.  How might that be?  Here is how:

  • You may have come out of school with a CPA and have gotten 5-7 solid years of representative accounting experience.  If your goal is to become a more general manager, would doing more of the same provide velocity in the right direction?  Maybe not?  It could add speed to your career, but not in the direction of your choosing.

Acceleration is similar to speed when it comes to careers, but getting acceleration involves increasing velocity, meaning that you need to add speed in the right direction.  Going back to our previous scenario with our CPA friends, gaining even more accounting experience would provide acceleration to an accounting based career.  It might provide you with a solid foundation for a great career as an accounting expert, a subject matter expert (SME).

In the same vein, acceleration can also be negative.  The scenario above might provide good career speed, even velocity, but it might provide negative acceleration, meaning the velocity is in a direction other than that of your choosing.

Some of you might have a headache with all of this physics lingo, but I  hope the examples provide some meaning regarding speed, velocity and acceleration.  Any one of us can help provide speed to our career, but gaining velocity, and especially acceleration in your career will encompass planning, goals and direction.  I would even offer that you may need manifold methods of making this happen, including the input of current and future bosses as well as mentors and advocates within the organization.

I’ll talk more about these concepts in some upcoming posts, but an even more fundamental point comes from Newton’s Laws of motion.  The first law goes like this:

Objects remain at rest or in a constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force.

How does this relate to your career?  Here is the point.

Your career will be what you have today unless you choose to take some course that involves something from outside of your current work process that changes the direction.  While Newton talks about an external force, that force might be something you call for or seek out, but if you keep doing only what you are doing today, not much will change, if anything.

Your career might have all of the speed you can ask for, but is the velocity the direction you really want?

If your career velocity is not the right direction, what outside force will you draw from to change the direction?

Do you have the initiative and will power to accelerate your career?  If so, what steps are you taking now?

Come back soon and we will talk further about how you might change the velocity and acceleration of your career.