Accommodating and thriving in the midst of change in jobs and careers 5 – facing the challenge of long-term and chronic unemployment
This is my fifth posting in a series on change and even disruptive change as it can reshape our work lives and our careers (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 306-309 for Parts 1-4.) And I have been writing this series as a direct successor to my immediately preceding series: Career Changes, Career Transitions (same directory, postings 285-305.)
When you count both my main directory listings and my supplemental postings, I have added just over 350 short essay installments to my Guide and its Part 2 continuation page. And over the course of that I have at least tried to offer a fairly wide range of resources that can be used for job search and career development, and throughout their various stages. And what I offer here is all distilled from my own experience and from that of people I have worked with – I always seek to focus on the empirically validated in what I write to this blog. But with that said, I freely admit here, that there are circumstances where none of what I do or could offer would work. And I want to start this posting by briefly sharing a selectively abridged story of a friend and associate I have tried to work with and help. I will call her H and simply state that she is a younger graduate of one of my alma maters who I first met at an alumni event. I was working as a consultant at the time and enjoying a weekend day off; she was trying to network for job opportunities and leads.
I am not going to delve into any of the details as to how this might have happened, but H graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in what should be a directly practical field, businesses were actively hiring in her field even if not doing so at a maximal job candidate-favoring rate, and she was unable to get that first, foot in the door job in her desired field. When I first met her, she had been out of school for a number of years but she had still never landed that first full time position in her field that she had trained for throughout her Bachelor’s degree program.
I did try helping her to network more effectively, and I did share some specific leads with her to people who I knew and had worked with. And I tried helping her to more effectively write a resume and cover letter. Nothing worked and I do add that she vocally pushed back against and rejected any real change from what she was doing and how she was doing that. I am only occasionally in contact with her now, but to the best of my knowledge she has still never found that dream job – a full time job in her field of study. And considering how long she has been out of college and how dated her degree is, when she is competing against recent graduates and with her employment record she really is out of the running now. And she has been in need for a long time now, of a real and genuine Plan B change of direction – which she has never and probably will never fully acknowledge.
This all began before I wrote my first posting of any sort to this blog, so I have been aware of it and of her and her circumstances throughout all of it. So I have always written here with an awareness and understanding that even the most carefully planned and the most empirically validated and refined tools and approaches cannot help or even work all the time and for everyone.
On one hand, I cannot help but think of my efforts to help H to break out of her pattern as representing a real failure on my part. But I also know that I cannot take ownership of H’s decisions or actions and I should not try to. Some of the most important approaches and options that I tried to get her to at least consider trying, simply provoked anger on her part, driven by frustration. Ultimately, she has been the one who has made the same decisions and repeated the same actions in pursuit of them, in hopes of seeing new and different outcomes from them.
So I turn in this posting and in this series to consider chronic and long-term unemployment. I have addressed a few perhaps specialized aspects of that before, and in that regard I specifically site postings I have added here on addressing resume gaps (see for example, Unemployment Gaps and Related Resume Problems and its Part 2 continuation.) I wrote those postings with two very specific audiences in mind – people I knew who had simply been out of work for periods of time and who were looking to get back in, and a couple of people I knew who had become caught up in financial industry improprieties and illegalities and who had spent time in prison as a result. And for them coming out and getting back into the work world, meant that any door back to anything like what they had been doing was in most cases closed to them and by court order. They were barred from certain lines of work when reentering the workforce, and for life. I worked with them as friends, in finding new direction Plan B alternatives.
For H, her Plan A did not and with time it ceased to even be a realistic possibility. But she has never really considered any Plan B – and even as any conceivable doorway to achieving her Plan A has closed and disappeared for her.
There are a lot of reasons why doors can close and disappear. Sometimes a desired Plan A work and career goal isn’t a good or even a realistic one. Sometimes that Plan A is good at first but becomes a dead end and disappears out from under us. And the loss of a job and the ending of a Plan A career path does not necessarily have anything to do with fault or blame or failure on our part, and certainly when that happens as a result of changing workplace circumstances that do not in any way involve or reflect our effectiveness or value in the workplace. But regardless of cause, when we face the prospect of being chronically or long-term unemployed, or find that we have slipped into that circumstance, it is up to us to find and take action to get out of that trap.
This is my last posting to this series and I end it by stating that we own our careers and our lives and that this is a good thing. But it means we have to be willing and able to step out of our comfort zone at times, and not just in terms of what we would do professionally – in terms of how we view ourselves and think of what we can do and are willing to do as well. We have to be willing to set aside our pride at times and particularly when circumstances render it more hubris. And I add that most definitely applied to the failed financers I cited above – though time in prison had pretty well accomplished that for them. But mostly, Plan A, Plan B and further work life and career planning iterations are all about open eyed and open minded resiliency. And that is perhaps particularly true at a time such as we are all currently facing, with its rapid change and uncertainties.
I am finishing this series here and on that note. I will be starting a next series in this Guide in a few days, with that on “Offering a Unique Value Proposition as an Employee.” Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
This is my fourth posting in a series on change and even disruptive change as it can reshape our work lives and our careers (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 306-308 for Parts 1-3.) And I have been writing this series as a direct successor to my immediately preceding series: Career Changes, Career Transitions (same directory, postings 285-305.) And as already noted I offer this series with a goal of addressing the challenges of job search and career planning and development in a period of profound change, of the degree and severity that we have been seeing, and that we can expect to continue seeing and certainly through any anticipatable future.
Even when we are thinking and planning long-term, we live in our immediate here and now. That holds for our work lives and our career paths as much as it does for anything else in our lives. But if we are going to find and pursue our own best possible career path and take the steps that would make it our reality we still have to think and plan long-term too. So career planning involves juggling two very different types of timeframe. And each has its own purposes and contexts where it offers value and each: long-term and short-term carries its own assumptions and limitations too. Either can lead us off-track if we pursue them in the wrong contexts.
My goal here in this posting is to explore timeframe issues and challenges, and I would begin with the immediate here, and now and short-term timeframe.
• When we are working at a job we need to think and act short-term in addressing our immediate here and now work responsibilities and the goals and priorities we face, and that we will be performance reviewed on.
• When we are actively looking for a new job, and whether or not we are already working, we take a fairly specifically short timeframe approach there too, when mapping out and carrying through upon job search campaigns (for a discussion of that see for example the series Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search isn’t Working, at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as postings 56-72.) The goal in all of this is to keep moving forward and with a search momentum that can help us to succeed in securing that next-step job.
But at the same time, we need to think long-term when visualizing and planning for a career path.
• When we are out of work and looking with a compelling need to find that next job now, long term considerations can easily be set aside, no matter how important they are.
• And it can be easy to slip into a pattern of never really looking all that much beyond the short-term here and now – in which case our career path and our work life are simply what happens as we are busy doing something else, and actually a long succession of immediate here-and-now something elses.
The day to day pressures and realities that we face tend to favor our over-reliance on short-term planning more than long, but problems can arise if we try only planning and thinking long-term too. I have probably seen more of this in the context of startup planning than career planning, but either way the result is building with gaps and with prioritization failures.
• Short term planning can help us define our priorities as we have to address them.
• Long term planning shows us where all of that should be taking us.
Keeping track of what timeframe and what type of timeframe assumptions we are pursuing is key to making both our jobs and our careers work for us.
I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider the issues and challenges of long-term unemployment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Accommodating and thriving in the midst of change in jobs and careers 3 – external and internal motivation, and taking ownership of our own careers
This is my third posting in a series on change and even disruptive change as it can reshape our work lives and our careers. See:
I began this series with an initial focus on the disruptive nature of sudden change, and of how loss of a job and for all too many, even a career path can be disruptively stressful. I cited other series and resources that I have been developing in this blog, and particularly in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development (see its first directory page and its continuation page.) I turn here to consider issues of mental outlook, and more specifically our sense as to whether we shape and control our own fate, or whether we are significantly influenced and even controlled by outside forces: luck, chance or the decisions of others.
• Successful job and career planning and follow-through call for a sense of personal control, and an awareness of the fact that we can shape our destines, and that we in fact have to do so if we are to know, let alone reach our own best personal career goals.
• Someone else, chance and fate, unpredictable circumstances … outside factors and even unpredictable outside factors might arise that open unexpected doors for us. But we have to be prepared to pick up on those opportunities from our own planning and preparation and our own willingness to take a leap into the New if we are to benefit from them.
• Someone else, chance and fate, unpredictable circumstances … outside factors and even unpredictable outside factors might arise that close doors, end jobs and that in extreme cases can and at times do end career paths as viable options. Once again, we have to be prepared and ready to take the initiative from there in finding a new way forward and taking that first step, and the next and next after that.
And here is the really important point to this posting:
• Even people who are basically self-motivated and who see themselves as masters of their own fates and lives and who tend to take ownership of their actions and of their consequences, can slip into a pattern of seeing themselves as being outwardly limited and of being controlled by outward forces when hit by a major life disruption such as a sudden and unexpected job or career path loss.
The effect of that can at times, even amount to what amounts to paralysis. As an extreme consequence of job and career loss, I have seen that happen to people who I have worked with and who I know to be real assets wherever they do work and for any business they work with. They lose their job and through no fault of their own and then, absent the structure and purpose they have experienced in their lives, they spend their time in disarray when they could be more effectively planning out and executing upon targeted job search campaigns. They slip into patterns of activity that keep them moving and busy and that take up their days, but not necessarily in ways that would help them to move forward, or move anywhere in particular. And they slip into self-doubt and depression; they go into mourning for what they have lost as I briefly touched upon in Part 2 and they need help to pull out of that.
I admit here that I have seen this up close from directly working with, and counseling and mentoring colleagues who were out of work and looking, and add that that is what prompted me to start writing my jobs and careers Guide in the first place. I actually wrote a number of my early postings for that from notes and handouts that I had written while trying to help some of those colleagues to get more organized, so they could increase their chances of job search success. And some of those early postings grew out of emails I sent out and from talks I have given to groups. But to shift back more directly to the topic of this posting I add, consistent with all that I have written there:
• Even when outside factors and forces throw a disruptive turn into our work lives and career paths, finding a new direction forward out of that disruption and moving on from it has to come from us. That is the good news; we can do that and move forward in changing and even restarting our careers if needed, ourselves.
• We can also do this with others, including search buddies – colleagues who are also looking and who we can collaborate with in this, each helping to keep the other motivated and taking next job search steps, reviewing and offering third party advice on resume and cover letter effectiveness, etc.
• We can seek out mentors and counselors who can give us focused advice as we run into questions we need experienced and even expert help with.
• And networking is of paramount importance for essentially anyone who seeks to develop and pursue an effective career path and whether they are working or searching or both (see my series: Jumpstarting Your Networking at the top of the Social Networking and Business directory page.)
But the core point here is that this all comes about as a result of our taking the initiative and from the fact that we can in fact shape our own careers and lives – not always in everything but in enough. And at this point I openly admit that this series in in fact a direct continuation of my just completed Career Changes, Career Transitions series (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-305), here focusing on resources and perspectives that might be needed in order to find and pursue a Plan B career planning (or a Plan C or D.) This posting and this series in general are about understanding and clearing away the clutter that we can mentally bring to the table with us, when we need to do that more effectively to succeed.
I am going to continue this discussion in my next series installment where I will consider the issues of job and career timeframes, and of knowing and understanding what type of timeframe you are planning and carrying out your career path along – and the consequences that can create. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Accommodating and thriving in the midst of change in jobs and careers 2 – finding and taking a first positive step forward in the face of job loss and career disruption
This is my second posting in a series on change and even disruptive change as it can reshape our work lives and our careers (see Part 1: putting change in perspective.)
At the end of Part 1 I stated that I would continue its line of discussion here by noting and discussing one of the most powerful tools that we have at our disposal for moving forward past loss: having something positive to move towards.
• Having a positive goal to aim for and finding and taking a step forward that would at least incrementally help move us toward it, can be our most powerful tool in seeing and moving beyond a loss of a job or even of an entire career path and into a new one.
• But putting that in perspective and making it work for us, we still have to acknowledge and deal with our loss of what was and of what we had hoped to be, in finding that new path and that new next step forward. So I will also discuss that side of this complex of issues too.
Start with the step forward and with taking the steps needed to find what it should be for you.
• If you are out of work and looking, pursue a Plan B job search as discussed in Part 1 of this series, and in detail in a separate series (see my first Guide directory page, postings 56-72.) And remember that when you are out of work, your job search should be a full time job and beginning immediately – before you get caught up in self-doubt or depression and while your networking contacts with your recent work colleagues are still fresh, and before any job loss benefits you are receiving have run out. Timing is crucial here, and both so you can search as someone who is only briefly and even transiently out of work, and so you can do so with a more positive and proactively thinking attitude.
• If you are still working but see your employer business or your position with it as risk (e.g. from concerns that the business will undergo layoffs or downsizings) then begin Plan B job searching as an actively, consistently pursued part time job and with a goal of being ready no matter what happens. Here, remember that if a round of downsizings does happen and you are not caught up in it, a second might follow with you included in that.
• If your job is secure where you are now, as far as the business you are working for is concerned, remember that the industry it belongs to and the markets it serves can change – and even if they remain strong, your current work and work life might not be the best one for you. So still at the very least think through and cultivate your career path, and think and plan accordingly (see the series Career Changes, Career Transitions at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-305.)
• And in any event and for any of these more generic scenarios, career plan and professionally network – and both to better know what your work context actually is, and to be better prepared for its challenges and opportunities (see my series: Jumpstarting Your Networking at the top of the Social Networking and Business directory page.)
This is crucially important:
• Our work and our careers and work lives both create and depend upon a very real sense of momentum. This momentum keeps us organized and moving forward in a purposeful and prioritized manner. And when we lose that momentum, as can all to easily happen if we lose our job we have to create new sources of direction, motivation and momentum if we are to move forward again – or even know what direction is “forward” for us.
So this posting is in fact all about cultivating a sense of direction and momentum – and one that comes from within us and not simply from the outside framework of a job and its leadership we happen to be professionally involved with.
I am going to turn in my next series installment to the issues of being externally or internally motivated, and of cultivating a mindset according to which we actively create our own futures and our own destinies – and that we are not simply passive participants in our work or in our lives. As a general statement this might seem trite, but in day to day practice we all too easily lose track of this. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Accommodating and thriving in the midst of change in jobs and careers 1 – putting change in perspective
Change, and even disruptively novel and unpredictable change are the only real constants that we can rely upon as we plan for and live our careers and work lives. The days of the one employer career path are long-gone for all but the rare few and most of us can expect to pursue a series of quite distinct career paths as a whole though the course of our work lives.
• I touched on this and its implications in my recently completed series: Career Changes, Career Transitions (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-305.)
• I have also addressed issues of change and with a focus on forces and factors that are driving it, in the supplemental postings lists at the end of my first Guide directory page and its part 2 continuation. In that regard, see my series: Discerning the 21st Century Workforce as listed on the first Guide page as supplemental postings 22-25. Though I could just as appropriately list my ongoing, if more loosely organized progression of open letters, as listed at the end of both directory pages.
• The important point here is that change per se, and both predictable and progressive, and disruptively unexpected, are defining facts that are shaping and that will continue to shape work lives and career paths and for essentially all of us and certainly through any foreseeable future.
I have written of Plan B job searches (see first Guide directory page, postings 56-72). And I have written about Plan B career planning (see my just completed career planning series as noted above.) Both connect strongly to the topics and issues that I raise here. But in a fundamental sense they should only be seen as a starting point for this discussion, as in effect we have to begin thinking of any and every job search and career planning in Plan B terms – and in Plan C and D terms, and in terms of further elaborations from them.
• Certainly when jobs markets are uncertain and are slanted in favor of hiring businesses rather than job candidates and prospective employees, anyone looking for work has to think in Plan B and further elaboration terms.
• And anyone currently working and even in a seemingly secure job should be thinking and planning and preparing for change and for a next career step.
• And we all need to allow for and prepare for the possibility that our current career paths and work trajectories might end and that we might have to head off in an entirely new work and career direction. That has happened to me twice, and it has happened to many others and will continue to do so, and even when we are successful and productive at what we have been doing.
• Change happens and will continue to happen, and as a basic fact of life and of work life. And that is the basic topic and message of this new series, starting with this first installment.
My goal for this first series installment is to at least begin putting change, and more particularly its disruption, in perspective and with an intended goal of helping others who face it to move on more quickly and effectively. And I begin by facing the central challenge in all of this.
• When we lose a job and for whatever reason, we all but reflexively start out wondering what we did to bring that about – and even if we are downsized for reasons that we intellectually know have nothing to do with us or our work performance, or the value that our work has contributed to the business that we have been working for.
• We start out wondering what we did to cause this – and for a very simple reason. Our day-to-day work and our jobs as a whole and our progression of work and jobs that form our careers are all measured and evaluated in terms of our ongoing work performance, and we all tend to define ourselves in significant part in terms of what we do professionally and how well we do it. That is essentially unavoidable as we spend so much of our time and energy at work.
• And even if we accept that our getting caught up in a downsizing or lay-off did not happen because of our work performance or because of any work performance failings on our part – we can and do wonder what we could have and should have done differently that would have prevented this loss.
• And when we lose a job and even for reasons that are completely outside of our control and unrelated to our own professional performance or value, we face a real and substantial loss – and not just of immediate income. And we can find ourselves going through a very real mourning process as a part of our self-identity and of our sense of self-worth fall away.
• Developing a Plan B and I add C and D flexibility and resilience is not about denying this or suppressing it. Denial and suppression per se, and certainly as a primary response will not make any of this to just go away. Any effort to simply deny or suppress our sense of real loss will only make all of these unresolved issues fester.
• Plan B and C and D flexibility and resilience is about acknowledging and accepting this loss and the need for addressing it as a process, and it is about moving on, through and past it. So that is what this series is about, and with an emphasis on taking active and even proactive steps in moving forward.
I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, and in anticipation of that note that one of the most powerful tools that we have at our disposal for moving forward past loss, is to have something positive to move towards. A positive goal and having a step forward in sight that we can take that would at least incrementally help move us toward it, can be our most powerful tool in seeing and moving beyond a loss of a job or even of an entire career path and into a new one. But putting that in perspective and making it work for us, we still have to acknowledge and deal with our loss of what was and of what we had hoped to be, in finding that new path and that new next step forward. So I will also discuss that side of this complex of issues too.
Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Career changes, career transitions 21: putting this series in perspective, and using the jobs and careers guide it is included in as a career development resource
This is my twenty first posting to a series on careers, career development and career transitions, and on looking at work and the work experience from a wider perspective than that of the here and now job or job search (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-304 for Parts 1-20.) And my goal for this series installment, as stated at the end of Part 20 is to discuss how this series fits into my jobs and careers Guide as a whole, and on using the rest of that collective resource for career planning per se. As I noted at the end of Part 20,
• As a matter of practical reality our careers take form and are realized as the series of jobs actually held and work performed, and what we achieve from that effort.
So my goal here is about using the Guide as a whole with its:
• Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development directory page and listings, and
• its Part 2 continuation page and its listings
as a set of tools for thinking and planning through specific job searches, jobs, and job and work progressions.
But as a starting point, rather than immediately delving into the Guide as a whole and how it is organized, I want to ground this discussion with some thoughts related to goals, benchmarks and follow-through – and making and carrying through on commitment points. This is particularly important here, where career planning often means not following a preplanned or expected “linear” and straightforward career path.
• With time we all take at least some unexpected turns in direction in our career paths.
• That can mean making a lateral career move to a new job or title that is different from what we have been doing but that would not necessarily be seen as a career advancement.
• That can even mean strategically and with forethought accepting what could be seen as a demotion or a pay cut – as a requirement for keeping a job when your employer is facing difficulties and the economy is down, or in order to develop new skills that you would need fir making a later intended career move.
• That can mean accepting and working your way through a layoff or downsizing and that can turn into making a very significant change in direction in what you do professionally, and into a completely new career track.
• The unexpected and unplanned for happen and we need to be able to adjust to that if we are to thrive in it.
I have made note of career nonlinearity and the unexpected in other postings in this series, but these issues come to the fore here when career planning is considered from the perspective of particular jobs and addressing their issues and responsibilities and job levels. So think in terms of what long-term gives meaning for you for what you do and seek to do professionally. And make a commitment point out of those goals as your long-term fixed goals – and be flexible in adjusting to the ongoing flow of challenge and opportunity in continuing to strive towards that. And with that in mind I cite Part 19 and Part 20 of this series and note that when I wrote of the wish list exercise there, I was not just writing about idealized and perhaps unrealistic goals. I was writing about setting anchor points that you can rely on with known and considered sources of value that you can turn to when facing here and now uncertainty.
And with that said, I turn to the overall Guide itself as a career toolset, beginning with the directory listings of its first directory page.
• As a broad sweep, the Guide begins with postings and series related to job search. That includes essentially every posting from number 1 through 72 of the Guide page 1, and in this context I specifically note two series that I developed there:
Jumpstarting Your Networking (Postings 47-50), and
Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search Isn’t Working (Postings 56-72) with is systematic series of hands-on exercises for carrying through a strategic job search.
• Then I turn in the guide to consider issues of starting a new job and best practices for getting back into the flow of activity of the workplace with: Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation (Postings 73-88.)
• With both in mind, but primarily turning back to the issues of finding and landing a new job, I then added the series: Bringing the Job Market and Marketplace into Focus (Postings 89-102.)
• And with that in place I began discussing management, and from both sides of the table: working for a new boss and moving into a first entry level management position (Postings 103-123.)
• I add that throughout the Guide I at least occasionally add in a posting that I consider appropriate for content but that does not clearly fit into a simple career progression model or anything like that. Posting 124: A Critique of the Peter Principle – career as a series of growth and transition phases, fits into that group.
• I proceed from there to write about the workplace itself, and about working on teams and better understanding the dynamics of the workplace with its sometimes conflicting needs and priorities (Postings 125-141.)
• And then I turn to the issues of advancing into middle management (Postings 142-149.)
• That seemed to be a good place to consider the issues of work/life balance so I added a series delving into those issues next (Postings 150-157.)
• And with that in place I moved onto to discuss the issues and challenges of moving into senior management (Postings 158-178.) And that is where I concluded adding series and posting links to the main directory section of this page. I also list a set of 26 supplemental postings at the end of the Guide page 1, which I will list and categorize in this outline at the end of this posting.
I continue the Guide from there with its Part 2 continuation page and:
• A series on joining and working on a board of directors (Postings 179-205.)
• I then stepped back to consider the issues and responsibilities faced when participating in and contributing to a workplace with a series on joining, working on and leading committees (Postings 206-220.)
• And with an immediate and directly applicable experience in mind as a source of incentive I added a short series on stockholder and annual meetings (Postings 221-224.) This can be seen in many respects as being a continuation of what I wrote of in my series on boards as noted above.
• And with that in place I turned to consider the career steps and paths of working as a consultant (Postings 225-249), and about projects and project management (Postings 250-266.)
• Nonprofits and working in the nonprofit sector constitutes a very particular type of career path, with its own specific issues and perspectives so I added a series on leading a nonprofit next (Postings 267-284.)
• And with Posting 285 I began adding this series on careers and career planning and development.
• My basic objective for moving forward past this series in the main directory sections of this Guide, is to add further material that would deal with issues of work life and careers and at that level, though I might very well add more individual postings or series that address issues more specific to particular career steps or stages too.
• And as noted above, along with the main directory listings, I have added supplemental postings too. That includes 26 additional postings as added to the bottom of the first Guide directory page and an additional 25 added to the bottom of the second, at least as of this writing. I address a number of issues in my supplemental postings related to the workplace and job market, and better preparing to succeed in it, and will continue to add to that too.
Meanwhile, I offer this posting as the last installment of this series. And you can find it and related postings and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Career changes, career transitions 20: knowing and pursuing your dream while still satisfying your day to day needs
This is my twentieth posting to a series on careers, career development and career transitions, and on looking at work and the work experience from a wider perspective than that of the here and now job or job search (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-303 for Parts 1-19.) And I write this as a direct continuation of Part 19: taking an ongoing, evolving holistic approach but always planning from the here and now, where I:
• Explicitly put the here and now of jobs and job searches, and careers and long-term work lives in perspective.
And I wrote in that posting about progressively opening yourself to your fullest range of options and possibilities as you consider and plan your work life as a career progression.
I ended Part 19 by briefly citing a friend and now former colleague who worked as a successful – but unhappy and fundamentally dissatisfied attorney. He was good at his work, and he made a good salary but every single day, from his accounting, he found himself just that small measure more dissatisfied and aware that something very important was missing, and both for himself and for his wife. They took some time off to travel and to think and to explore wider possibilities and by chance or by destiny depending on whether you believe them or not, they found themselves out on the eastern end of Long Island in what was becoming one of New York State’s developing wine countries. There was a vineyard that was going on the market and they fell in love with it. They went back home but they already know their lives were about to change and change they did – they went back and bought that vineyard and all of its headaches and problems and opportunities too. It took several years to get their new lives and business going and a fair amount of what they had saved away in their retirement investments. But they persisted and this did work for them and they found both happiness and skills in making wine, and from their own grapes to their own bottled products.
I do not cite this to suggest that many would or should make such drastic changes in their lives – only to note that dreams can be big and even scary for their divergence from tried and true and here and now, and still work. Happiness can come from unexpected directions and even from taking what amounts to a leap of faith.
Most of us find our own best career paths and work lives closer to home and to the familiar, but even when that is true for us, an awareness of open possibilities can be important – if for no other reasons than in helping us avoid the trap of wondering what if.
• “What if” is the question that we come to as a symptom of gaps in our planning and it comes to us when we realize that we did not open ourselves widely enough to our possibilities.
• Circumstances can and often do constrain what we can do, and the pressures of meeting our day to day needs and of planning for our long term needs while doing so – educating our children and preparing for our own eventual retirements, for example, can limit as well as carry defining positive meaning.
• But it is important not to simply cut off the possible and doable in the name of immediately considered expediency.
As a final area of thought to round out this posting I turn back to a basic approach that I have suggested in other contexts throughout this guide. And I apply it here to the wish list exercise as presented in Part 19.
• If you keep your dreams and wishes and acknowledgement of what you truly find of value in your life, vaguely stated – all you will come away with from exploring them is a vague sentiment.
• Start with those perhaps vaguely stated approximations but bring your understanding of what is important to you, of what gives you meaning, into as clearly articulated a point of focus as you can. The more clearly you can articulate what you seek in your career and life the more likely you are to achieve it. The more often you do state this and plan and think in terms of it the more likely you are to realize and live it too.
• Write this all down – keep an explicit journal if that helps. And go back to that as a reality check on where you are and where you are going. Your ideas and priorities and even your ideals will change and evolve and both from experience and from the way your needs and your practical day to day, week to week, and year to year goals change. That is all right – that is good.
• Do not expect to realize all of what you would reach for, but keep thinking and keep reaching, and with an open mind and heart.
I tend to write in terms of practical hands-on details and state with the certainty of direct experience that I do so here too, no matter how impractical this may sound when viewed from the pressures and demands of our day to day lives. And I come back to that “what if” question and to feeling that you have left out important considerations and possibilities simply by focusing too closely on the immediately here and now and on the next immediate task at hand. Career planning really is an exercise in self-discovery. Self-discover.
I am going to turn in my next series installment to the topic of how this series fits into my jobs and careers guide as a whole, and on using the rest of this collective resource for career planning per se. I repeat in that context that up to here one of my primary goals for this series has been to offer tools for broadening career planning to include and allow for as wide a range of possibilities as practical and realistic. With this next posting I will turn directions to focus on jobs and work done. After all, as a matter of practical reality our careers take form and are realized as the series of jobs actually held and work performed, and what we achieve from that effort. So I turn in my next series installment to connecting this series as offered up to now, to specific job and work progressions. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Career changes, career transitions 19: taking an ongoing, evolving holistic approach but always planning from the here and now
This is my nineteenth posting to a series on careers, career development and career transitions, and on looking at work and the work experience from a wider perspective than that of the here and now job or job search (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-302 for Parts 1-18.) And I offer this installment with a goal of offering approaches to break out of conceptual ruts.
• We work in the day to day and the immediately now, and on tasks that for the most part are due and will be performance evaluated on a short time frame. Our next overall performance review is coming up in at most a matter of months.
• If we are looking for a new job, we tend to focus on the immediate here and now for that too, and whether we are currently working already or whether we are out of work and trying to reenter the active workforce.
• If we manage and supervise others, once again we tend to focus on the here and now and short timeframe for that too.
• Sales, and product development, manufacturing and distribution that would go into salable products are also oriented towards meeting current or soon-to-arrive market needs, and the immediate point of sale needs and preferences of specific customers in those markets. Similar timeframe points could be made about essentially any other functional areas that we might professionally contribute to. So this issue of short term here and now focus applies to us and our jobs and to what we work on in those jobs.
• Then we turn to consider our careers – when we actually do so, and we have to mentally shift gears and think longer term and big picture, and about our own long term goals and priorities and even about our own dreams and aspirations.
• When we work, we focus more on others and not just when our work goals and priorities are altruistic and explicitly specified and oriented towards creating value for others, as for example when working for a mission driven nonprofit. Our work tends to be focused on meeting the needs of colleagues and groups we work with and on offering value to our customers – and are outwardly focused even in the most competitive businesses. Our career planning is about ourselves and our families and what is important to us on a more personal level.
I have been writing about a relatively wide range of issues and perspectives that would go into any realistic, functionally meaningful career planning in this series, and about the details of specific types of work positions that we might hold in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its continuation page as a whole. My goal for this installment is to help you to break out of the immediate here and now rut, so compellingly present in our more usual day to day professional lives, to think big, or at least a lot bigger and wider than usual. And I go back in that to an approach and an exercise that I offered early in this series on assessing where you are and where you seek to go professionally (e.g. in Part 2 and Part 3.)
That type of self-assessment exercise can often prove sufficient for helping to find realistic paths forward that would meet our particular and individual career goals, but for any of a variety of reasons, it can sometimes be necessary to step back and reassess and reconsider, looking for the still unexplored and up to now unconsidered too. So I offered a Plan B career planning and development alternative too, with Part 13 and Part 14 of this series. The whole organizing thrust of this series up to here has been to progressively open out a wider and wider perspective of the possible, that you really see and consider as many of your options and as wide a range of possibilities as you can, in helping you to find and pursue your own best possible, realistic, doable career path. And that brings me to this posting and to a next exercise: the wish list exercise.
• Look over the lists and notes that you have already prepared from your Part 2 exercise and your Plan B exercise if you have done that too, with a very specific question in mind. How much of what you have assembled in responding to those exercises is oriented towards and framed in terms of specific jobs and position types, skills used and experience needed? Reframing that question, how much of what you have developed in carrying out those exercises was oriented toward what you would do, rather than why it would hold value to you?
• It is important to plan at that level, but you also need to understand the specific sources of need and value that you seek to address and fulfill, that would go into making a good career path for you, good for you. If you only look at the hands-on day to day details you would pursue in a next job or in a job that you would work towards, you are probably only thinking along the lines of a career path you are already in, or one that is fundamentally similar to that.
• For many people, the exercise that I offered in Part 2 of this series would suffice on its own, but what if looking back at your exercise results after a break, leaves you wondering what you somehow left out? I add that if you are being true to yourself and really looking for all of the possibilities, you will in all likelihood find yourself asking that or something similar at least somewhere during this course of self-understanding called career planning.
Even if you are very systematic and focused in your approach to life – and sometimes especially if you are, it can be important to step back from the practical and functional details to make sure that the path you seek to pursue is not simply an elaboration of what you are already doing now. And this brings me to the wish list exercise itself.
• Remember in the exercise of Part 2 how you included outside interests and any volunteer or other work you might have done, not strictly speaking part of your career path up to now in considering the possibilities for your next career steps and those to follow?
• Don’t just think in terms of skills you might have developed or used (e.g. serving as treasurer for a community development group or mentoring teens through leading a Scout troop, or doing some particular form of volunteer work.) Set aside the hands-on details and ask why and how those activities offer meaning and value to you.
• As a wish list ask yourself what you would most like to accomplish in your life at that level, of value and type of value created and shared. Ask yourself what is most important to you as a person, and for you’re being the best and most fulfilled person you could be.
• Now go back to the exercises of Parts 2 and 3, and of Parts 13 and 14 if you have done them too. Go back over the exercises and thought points of this series as a whole up to now and ask yourself what is missing or incompletely captured in your thoughts and plans up to here.
• And with this I go back once again to that litmus test question of Part 1:
• Think of where you would like to be and what you would like to be doing in five years. Now what could you do today, that in however small a way might help you reach that?
Effective career planning needs to allow for more open ended possibilities, if you are to climb out of the ruts, however wide or narrow that you might be in now. This is a gradual process for most of us and even when jolted by change, as for example from a sudden and unexpected downsizing.
See and appreciate the real, positive value you can offer and even when confronted by challenges and barriers. See where a goal you might be working towards is really just someone else’s idea of who you are and what you would best do. And be yourself and with open eyes and ears and a mind open to the possibilities. Be realistic, but remember that if you are caught in a conceptual rut, what you can do and what is realistically possible is wider than what you see now.
I am going to follow up on this posting in a next installment where I will discuss dramatic and fundamental changes in career direction where for example a lawyer decides to make a fundamental career and lifestyle change to operate a vineyard and produce wine. I have a specific friend and colleague in mind as I write that who made that precise life change, and very successfully. He has his own vineyard now and some of his wines have been well received and rated. And bottom line any change of that sort is all about quality of life and fundamental values of a type I have been writing about in this posting. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Career changes, career transitions 18: finding and pursuing your best path forward in the 21st century workplace 2
This is my eighteenth posting to a series on careers, career development and career transitions, and on looking at work and the work experience from a wider perspective than that of the here and now job or job search (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-301 for Parts 1-17.)
I began Part 17 by noting two perspectives on change that are coming to both impact upon and shape our work and career paths, and that are significantly shaping the 21st century workplace and business environment as a whole:
• I could write this in terms of the already rapidly emerging known new realities that we all face as we work and as we plan and develop our careers. That would definitely include career planning and development and working in the emerging contexts of ubiquitous computing and communications, and of businesses and individuals always being connected, and potentially at least to anyone anywhere and at any time. And that only touches upon one part of this already rapidly emerging new framework.
• Or I could write this in terms of addressing the still unknown that is sure to come.
I focused on the issues of the second of those bullet points in Part 17 and stated at the end of that installment that I would continue that discussion here, focusing on the perspective of the first bullet point. At the end of Part 17 I also noted that:
• The distinction between those two perspectives: between the “known emerging” and the unexpected and unknown can be very narrow and difficult to discern.
With that in mind I turn to that above-repeated bullet point:
• Even just as of this writing in early 2013, we have all witnessed a great deal of change from the emergence of globally connected online and associated communications, data storage and computer systems – the internet and all of the ancillary and supporting systems that connect into it.
• But as much as has already happened and as much as this had changed our options and expectations, and in our work lives and in our lives in general, we have only seen the beginning of what is shaping up to be a much more profound and far-reaching shift.
• Artificial intelligence is still just in its embryonic stages of development. A time is rapidly approaching where Turing test criteria for blind-identification of information processing as being human or artificial in source will be flipped on its head, as computer-based AI systems are developed that can outperform their strictly human stand-alone counterparts. This is already happening for at least some specialized contexts.
• But with progressively more effective and more closely and invisibly interconnected networking capabilities, strictly artificial and strictly biologically human are going to become end points in a continuum with a vast grey area in-between that involves and includes both.
• Information processing and storage, and communications hardware are not disappearing, but they are becoming less and less obtrusive as they become more and more globally distributed, and interconnected into everything. And any functional boundaries and distinctions between those categories of hardware and information and knowledge support are blurring and becoming fundamentally invisible too. As a teenager, I got to work with and program what was called big iron: an early IBM 360 that was larger for space requirements than the apartment that my wife and I live in. My inexpensive wrist watch of today has more computing power in many respects than that huge collection of equipment had, and mainframes gave way to mini-computers to desktops to laptops to tablets to handhelds for cutting edge compactness and availability. I write this as the first of a next generation of compact and ubiquitously available and functional is set to come out with an all but invisibly small computer system with a tiny screen showing as part of an eyeglasses frame – or as a slim and stylish and unobtrusive headband. Computational power and bandwidth, and range of functional capability go up and size and weight and cost and power requirements go down.
• We have already seen some fundamental shifts emerge out of this, where sufficiently extreme quantitative change becomes de facto fundamental qualitative change. The perhaps more-quantitative in nature, further changes that I could cite here will be accompanied by new and much more disruptively novel and unpredictable changes too and collectively all of this will bring about an overall change that will dwarf anything that can be seen to have happened in my grandfather’s life or in the 20th century as a whole. And much if not all of this that I write of here will take place in the lifetime of people in the workforce now and certainly when you add those already alive and in school to that. So the two bullet points that I repeated from Part 17 at the top of this posting are really two sides of one point that I could make here.
And with that I return very explicitly to the issues of jobs and careers. I have no crystal ball and I cannot foresee the future, but a few trends are quite predictable and certainly within the timeframe of people who seek to plan out and pursue career paths now.
• I have written in several installments of this series about less traveled career paths. Some may very well remain less traveled and more the exception when considering the workforce as a whole.
• But some will become fully mainstreamed and become the new primary paths for many, and as standard and conventional options. And I add, some of our currently more standard career paths and approaches to work are all but certain to become less traveled too.
• Our increasingly ubiquitous interconnectedness all but guarantees that, as do pressures toward lean and agile operational and strategic business approaches and the increasing role of ever more complex and comprehensive dynamically changeable supply chain systems – and systems of business collaboration in general.
• So what we do at the level of tasks performed and skills needed to perform them will change and continue to change, but so will the very nature of work and the workplace, and how we relate to it – and in ways that we can and ways that we cannot anticipate now.
Some of this will be evolutionary and even readily predictable. Some will be revolutionary and involve the sudden emergence of the disruptively novel. Looking back on the 21st century and certainly on the first half of it, it is not always going to be unarguably clear which will have been which and where evolutionary gave way to revolutionary and vice versa. And that brings me back to a point that I made earlier in this posting that I repeat again here as a closing thought:
• Career planning, long term, is in a very significant sense a stepping into the unknown and that fact is becoming one of the most fundamental truths in defining what “career path” even means.
I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider the need for taking an ongoing, evolving holistic approach to jobs and careers while always planning from the here and now details. The basic question is one of preparing for a perhaps unknown next while living and working in the immediate here and now, and keeping all of this realistic and practical. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.
Career changes, career transitions 17: finding and pursuing your best path forward in the 21st century workplace 1
This is my seventeenth posting to a series on careers, career development and career transitions, and on looking at work and the work experience from a wider perspective than that of the here and now job or job search (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-300 for Parts 1-16.)
My overall goal for this blog as a whole is to present and discuss in at least some detail, a set of resources and approaches that would offer value in the 21st century workplace and business. And my primary overall goal for my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its directory continuation page within that, havw been to offer resources for working and for developing an effective, meaningful career in this rapidly changing and emerging context. So this series, and this posting within it can be seen in many respects as linchpin to both my jobs and careers Guide and this business and technology blog as a whole.
There are two approaches to addressing the 21st century workplace that I could pursue in writing this posting, that come immediately to mind:
• I could write this in terms of the already rapidly emerging known new realities that we all face as we work and as we plan and develop our careers. That would definitely include career planning and development and working in the emerging contexts of ubiquitous computing and communications, and of businesses and individuals always being connected, and potentially at least to anyone anywhere and at any time. And that only touches upon one part of this already rapidly emerging new framework.
• Or I could write this in terms of addressing the still unknown that is sure to come.
Picking up on that second perspective to start, and with a more personal working example in mind for perspective, when my father’s father came home from Europe and from serving in World War I, the civilian world that he returned to was very different from what it had been only a few brief years earlier when he first left home. Isolationism, long rampant in the United States, was no longer possible even as a wistful fantasy and even if still attempted, at least by some. The United States was rapidly engaging in whole new ways with the world at large, and in trade and commerce at least as much as in matters of government and politics. Technological advances were changing everything and the workplace and its expectations were changing just as quickly – I could be writing most any of this briefly sketched description about the here and now of the United States and I add the world too, and with only relatively minor changes in circumstantial detail. But more to the point, when I was born a few short decades later in a post-World War II world, and while my grandfather was still actively working, the post-WW I world he that had returned to was already just a quaint memory. A significant percentage of the world was working in and actively engaged in fields and activities that did not even exist as possibilities in 1918 and the pace of this change was only accelerating.
I cite this example because my grandfather left for Europe and the War to End All Wars, as it was naively called close to one century ago, and approximately as far past the beginning of the 20th century as we are now from the start of the 21st. So I look back to that 20th century example to how change, and both expected and disruptively unexpected altered seemingly everything and by the end of that century and even just within my grandfather’s life time. We can expect at least as much change in the 21st century and in fact more, as if anything the pace of change has been accelerating even faster.
So jumping forward from my grandfather and his experiences to the here and now, and the soon to be of the next years and the next decades, much of what we do now as standard work activities and responsibilities and even as entire career paths will no longer hold importance, except perhaps as legacy systems-supportive activities. New jobs and new areas of expertise and experience that do not exist yet, will become our essential realities and they will become our fundamental career path options and shapers. So considering that second bullet point, and change and the emergence of the disruptively new as our new standards and norms:
• We can expect to be doing things in our work lives that shape our career paths, that do not exist yet. Career planning, long term, is in a very significant sense a stepping into the unknown and that fact is becoming one of the most fundamental truths in defining what “career path” even means.
• The important point there, from a here and now practical perspective is in thinking and understanding what our current options are and continuing to learn, with a goal of anticipating change where possible, and with a goal of adapting to it where and as necessary – and especially when it is unexpected and disruptively novel.
• So developing and pursuing an effective, meaningful career path has to include becoming a life-long learner, and one who approaches change with open eyes and a willingness to adapt.
And this brings me to the first of those two bullet points at the top of this posting, and the already rapidly emerging known new realities that we all face as we work and as we plan and develop our careers. I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment with that point, and in anticipation of that posting note that the distinction between those two perspectives: between the “known emerging” and the unexpected and unknown can be very narrow and difficult to discern in practice. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.