Thursday, 5 December 2013

Career planning means understanding the past better

Today I completed a series of written assessments, for the benefit of a career development consultant who works for a firm I have contracted to help me reorient my career. It sounds a bit formidable, I know, but in actual fact the performance of this task - answering all the detailed questions - has helped me to understand why certain things have happened in the past in the roles I have been employed to perform, in two organisations.

When I think back it is often with dismay. On two separate occasions separated by a decade I have lost my immediate manager and I have wondered fruitlessly over many years what, if anything, had been my part in the desertion, because in both cases what followed their leaving turned out to be less than optimal from the point of view of my career. What could I have done differently to ameliorate the situation, firstly by making sure that the manager did not leave the role and, failing that, to make sure that my own prospects after the organisational change were healthy and positive?

The assessment documents I completed today function to help you zero in on details and to think productively on what kind of issues were involved in past events. They also ask you to list things that you might want to consider doing to rectify shortcomings identified by reconstructing the past. I can't include all the questions here because the documents are the intellectual property of the firm that supplied them. What I can say, however, is that I have decided that in the past my fault was not to have behaved stupidly (per se) but, rather, the fault lay in the fact that I did not (1) stand up for my own interests strongly enough and (2) communicate well enough in spoken form. So it wasn't because I'm a dumbass. It was because I didn't know how to engage effectively in work situations. So many problems could have been fixed before they became problems if I had been more assertive, I have now, after so many years, decided.

This could be why the online environment appeals to me. Online you have time to pause and reflect before committing to an utterance. You are also removed from the physical presence of those with whom you are communicating, which means you don't have to deal with body language. This remoteness from those aspects of personality and communication has its upsides, I've concluded, especially for physical cowards (!) like me. Rather than having to think on your feet, online you can think through your fingers. You can go back and rephrase, you can hesitate without showing that you are doing so, you can fudge and reword at leisure because there is noone standing in front of you with their time-sensitive demands. You have space, and time, to reflect, and this can work well for a certain type of personality. That's what I think anyway.

But it's not enough, when you're considering reshaping your career, to merely rely on the distance that the virtual world enables. Having completed the assessment tools it is now time to make an appointment with the career consultant in order to talk over matters arising from the material submitted. Is there anything left incomplete? Are the conclusions really accurate? (I mean, how accurate can you be when you are self-assessing at the quiet of your own desk?) A frank conversation can narrow in on the answers to these questions, and it can also lead to the formation of ideas about what steps should be taken to address issues the self-assessment has raised.

Completing the documents is part of a longer process with the ultimate goal of gaining employment in a chosen field. Work? It should be fun and rewarding in ways that are both financial and personal. I strongly believe that the best days lie ahead in terms of my career. Sometimes you just need a little help to work out how to make them happen.

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