Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career planning 4: learning from the experience of others 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 18, 2017

This is my fourth installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-3.)

I focused in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series on two points of discussion:

• Longer-term work life and career strategic planning, and
• Shorter-term, more tactical planning.

I originally offered these to-address topic points and others in Part 1 to this series, and continue in this installment from there, with Point 3 from that initially orienting list of what is to follow:

• Learning from the experience of others: positive and negative and developing your own best practice priorities and goals from the insight that this type of research can bring you.

And I begin by citing an early learning curve experience from my own childhood. I was a grade school student in a fourth or fifth grade science class and the instructor brought in a set of chemical bottles to make a demonstration with. I no longer remember precisely what they wanted to show to the class – their intended demonstration did not present itself as either interesting or particularly informative at the time either. But I do remember a completely unintended lesson that was conveyed, and powerfully so to me. One of the bottles that this teacher brought in was filled with a very strong solution of ammonia, and he took the top off and set it aside, noting that it had quite a strong smell to it. One of my classmates picked it up and took a smell with his nose directly over the open top to that bottle – and almost dropped it from the fumes that came out. I, for whatever reason picked up that bottle and tried smelling it too, but more circumspectly. I still ended up with watery eyes and I add with an admonition from this teacher to not act like an idiot.

I had assumed that if I simply sniffed and at more of a distance, that I would not be hit as hard by the fumes coming out, which was correct but not correct enough in this case. I remember how that teacher in effect set us and himself up for problems by bringing in a bottle like that for his class demonstration and by leaving it within easy reach after making his comment about it. But this also drove home another lesson as well: that of more carefully and fully learning from the experience of others: and in this case from both my fellow student and from the teacher himself from how he set up this situation.

Did this teacher learn a lesson of the importance of learning from the experience of others in planning out his next class demonstration? I do not know. But I learned and as a part of that, this meant both thinking outside of the patterns of my own expectations and agendas, and thinking in terms of wider possibilities.

I have in effect already started addressing this posting’s topic in earlier series installments and certainly in its Part 3 when I wrote of downsizings. If you are working at a business that might be facing possible downsizings, and even just in another area of the business that you work at as a whole, you need to listen and watch and learn from that. What happens as a possible downsizing “there,” after all, can become a possible or even an probable downsizing “here” too, with time – and certainly if a first round of this becomes just that, and with next rounds becoming necessary too.

• My brief whiff of ammonia was a bit unpleasant. But a downsizing and particularly in a weak job market for those suddenly looking for work, can be a lot worse. And if you simply back into that type of event and into finding yourself in an exit interview, that can be a great deal worse.

Learn from others, and for both downside and upside possibilities. Do you need to expand your skill set, and if so how and in what way? What options and opportunities might be available through your employer for this? If you were to take on a special task or assignment that called for these new skills, would your employer help you with that, and either by allowing time for your learning those new skills or by at least helping to pay for your training in them? Has anyone else sought out these or similar skills and if so, where? What support did they receive from their supervisor and from the business for this? Who precisely were they and what was their experience with the training programs that they went through? Were those programs, for example, hands-on practical and did their coursework really fit into and help them meet their own the job needs, or was subject matter coverage spotty and less practically applicable? If so, what would they recommend that you look for in finding a better program, and do they have any names of training facilities or programs offered that they could suggest your looking into? I only raise some of the possible due diligence questions here that you might need to actively consider.

I am in fact addressing several issues here, with strategically planned networking as crucial to your learning curve success as actually reaching out and listening to the experience of specific others. Learning from others, and with an effective reach that would increase your chances of success there, means networking beyond your already familiar circle of immediate acquaintances. It means reaching beyond your usual contacts, for contacts and who they know, who you would benefit from getting to know too – and with a specific goal on your part of learning from their experience.

• This means you’re really thinking through what you need to learn and know next and it means you’re bringing this understanding into a focus that you can clearly and succinctly articulate to others.
• And it means really thinking through who might hold this information, and with direct personal experience validating it for them.
• It means thinking through who you know who would or at least might know these target contacts who you need to meet and connect with. And it means you’re networking through these intermediaries to reach them.
• But most importantly, it means networking with a goal of both gaining and offering value and throughout this process. In that, I suggest you’re at least reviewing my four part best practices series: Jumpstart Your Networking (as can be found near the top of the directory page: Social Networking and Business.) Good networking practices build bridges; bad ones burn them. And this posting is all about building.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to the fourth to-address point from Part 1’s initial series-orienting list:

• Mentors and mentoring and from both sides of the table, and pursuing opportunities to learn and grow professionally.

And remember, as a final thought that I would add to this posting, that is going to be just as important to this next one to follow too:

• Real networking only begins with the second real point of contact with a new acquaintance. That is where any real conversation that could take place is actually started. This is important: a first point of contact helps you to find a doorway to new opportunity. That second point of contact is where you turn a potential conversation that in and of itself could easily end there, into an actual one. This is where you open and go through that doorway.
• And to repeat a point made earlier here, real networking always springs from a real effort to both gain and offer value of at least some sort, and reciprocally. Simply taking and coming across as simply seeking to take just burns bridges and forecloses any real networking possibilities.

How do these points, and particularly the second of them apply in a mentor, mentee relationship? I will discuss that as an area of consideration in my next series installment, among other issues.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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