Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Cultivate learning curve skills and opportunities – take chances and cultivate a habit of stretching out in new directions

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 25, 2015

It is easy to fall into a rut, and both in what you do and in how you do it and in what you come to think of yourself as being able to do, and certainly professionally and in your work life. All you have to do is focus on the immediate here and now pressures and demands of the job you have, and on the requirements that you have to address right now in it, with each today’s tasks and priorities that have to be worked upon and completed absorbing your attention. Day to day pressures to focus and to perform can all but demand this, as day to day tasks absorb both your time and your energy, leaving you ready to rest and to set aside work issues at the end of each busy work day.

And I add one more blinder-reinforcing if not blinder-creating factor to that when I acknowledge the safety and the comfort providing draw of the familiar and the routine.

• It can seem a lot easier to do a tried and true again that you know you can do easily and well, than it would be to break away from that and risk the unfamiliar and new
• With its learning curve requirements and its delays in achieving the success that you need if you are to be awarded with your best possible performance scores in your next upcoming workplace performance reviews.

Ruts, as I say are easy. But ruts do not change or deviate from what has been, but that might not always remain relevant moving forward.

I find myself thinking back to a posting that I added to this blog several years ago now (in late 2010), as I write this: A Critique of the Peter Principle – career as a series of growth and transition phases. I wrote there of the long-term consequences of ruts and of where they do all eventually lead. I write here more about the long-term value of breaking away from ruts and of opportunity that can bring, as well as acknowledging the potential for short-term risks of doing so. I stated my key point in all of that in the title to this posting:

• Take chances and cultivate a habit of stretching out in new directions.

This means looking up from your desk and from your immediate tasks at hand to see what the team you work on as a whole is doing. It means looking past the limited vision and perspective of your own day to day to consider the larger context that your work fits into. Think in terms of what your manager and direct supervisor is responsible for working on and completing, that they would need their team to carry through upon. What do they have to get done that they would want to assign, at least in part to a member of the team that reports to them, but that does not clearly fit into anyone’s specific current day to day work flow? Think in terms of the stakeholders who you work with and who you in effect work for, with them serving as your clients as your work performance meets their specific needs. Are there obvious gaps, or at least specifically identifiable incompletely addressed areas in what you are doing for them, that your work could be extended to address and resolve?

• What are the priorities in these possible new-direction extensions of what you are doing now, and for whom?
• Think of your supervisor and any other stakeholders who you provide solutions and resolutions for, as your clients. Think like a consultant in this; how do they see and set their priorities and identify their needs in all of this and how can you better help them to fulfill these requirements?

If a possible additional type of task is at most a low priority wish list item for both your own supervisor and for any other direct stakeholders who might benefit from its getting done, then this is probably not going to be an effective area for you to volunteer to take on and certainly right now – unless that is, this would give you a lower risk opportunity to develop and polish new skills that would also be needed for very high priority work where you would need to be able to get everything right and quickly, the first time.

• This posting is not about grabbing at any and every opportunity to volunteer for new types of tasks. It is about planning and thinking, and in terms of larger contexts than just your own immediate here and now.

And obviously this all has to be done in the context of your own basic workload and its current schedules. You do not necessarily want to volunteer to take on new and additional work at a point in time in which your desk is overflowing with high priority crunch-time work that absolutely has to be completed Now – unless that is, this new work would take such a high overall priority (to your supervisor and involved stakeholders) as to supersede in immediate significance your current, more standard work. Even there, look for ways to help your supervisor to get that more standard work completed too, if at all realistically possible.

• Volunteer and take on opportunities to expand your skills and experience base – but do so with a carefully considered understanding of how this would fit into larger pictures.

And be willing to accept some overtime work in the here and now to be able to do this, if and when that would prudently seem to be an effective move from a longer-term and career perspective. Take chances and be willing to make the effort to follow through on the work commitments that you accept when doing so – which means, among other things, thinking through what those here and now consequences are and what they mean.

• Will you get the support that you would need in order to succeed if you need to develop new skills in order to succeed in this voluntary stretch goal work? What types of support would you even need?

That is likely to include time in your work schedule and that means a rebalancing of at least some of what is on your desk already for its completion schedule and its priorities. But it might mean gaining access to what for your usual work would be new resources too, including access to colleagues who you do not usually work with, whose efforts would be coordinately needed to complete this new work.

• In many respects this posting is all about strategy and about thinking and planning and executing strategically.
• Career planning and carrying through on career development is all about work life strategy. And that is what this posting is about.

I wrote my above cited November 2010 posting in terms of an Australian roadway metaphor. Think of this as a Part 2 continuation of that, where I write this time about breaking out of that posting’s lulling straightforward path and into new opportunity. You can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 (with this included as a supplemental posting there) and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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