Human resources consultant, Leah Reilly, warns about getting trapped in sentimental feelings about your past roles and accomplishments. Instead, seek out new experiences and push yourself creatively and positively career-wise, and it can result in gains in other aspects of life.


by Leah Reilly


At one point, I accepted a role with a former manager because I felt trapped in my role at the time. This new offer was a lifeline out of a bad situation and it seemed perfect. I’d work for someone I knew, in a role I was quite comfortable filling and things would be great. What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that I had changed. I had gained experience, opinions and maturity. I was a very different employee from the person I once was; I had led and managed people, delivered challenging projects and dealt with difficult personalities.


Arguably this made me a better leader and even better suited to revisit the former role, but I didn’t find the job nearly as satisfying as in the past. I no longer had the same creative spark, it was too easy and I could just coast and fill my time with busy-work rather than meaningful endeavours. It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.


“It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.”


Recently I was listening to an interview with Michael Stipe on the Q podcast. It’s the 25th anniversary of “Out of Time” and they’ve re-released their landmark album. I’ll wait for a second while you settle into that nugget and feel incredibly old. During the interview, Michael made a comment that was something along the lines of “I abhor sentimentality. I just want to move onto the next song, the next book, the next album.”


Pause for a second and settle into the idea of “letting go of sentiment.” At first it seems a bit callous, at least to me it did. It seemed like heartlessly tossing away something cherished and moving like a magpie onto the next shiny object. But that’s not what he meant, or at least I don’t think that’s what he meant. What I’ve taken this to mean is that you can’t let yourself get trapped in the memory of what was.


Stipe’s comment resonated truthfully for me and drew me right back to the experience of trying to go back to an old role. I’ve learned from this experience in my career that the clichés are indeed true, that time stands still for no (wo)man and that you can’t go back again. I’ve learned that pushing yourself creatively and positively career-wise results in positive gains in other aspects of life. It’s critical to let go of the sentimental ties that bind us to the past and that can cause us to stagnate.


You need to continually move forward, push yourself and create new experiences. Warm and fond memories of past roles and successes will remain but don’t spend too long patting yourself on the back for your past accomplishments. Remain curious, keep learning, be open to reinvention and don’t look back.


Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

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