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.

Career planning 3: thinking through and taking first steps forward in an ongoing iterative process

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 6, 2017

This is my third 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 Part 1 and Part 2.)

I started this series by laying out a road map to it in its Part 1, for many if not most of the topics and issues that I will address here. And I proceeded to address the first of those points in Part 2, approaching careers and career planning from a big-picture perspective and by offering a longer-term career progression mapping tool that centers around understanding your needs, goals and priorities as they change over time.

My goal for this third installment to this series is to shift focus to a more here-and-now level of career development that coordinates with that. It is important that we career plan with an active awareness of where we have been and where we seek to go, and with a big-picture understanding. But we still live and work and decide and act in our immediate here-and-now context too, and of necessity. And with that noted, the second to-address point from Part 1 that I will address here, is:

• Thinking in terms of where you are now, and in terms of next possible steps that you might take now to specifically reach where you seek to be next.

And that is where initial planning first turns to initial action and follow-through. As a bridge between these two time frame perspectives, I often at least initially couch the set of issues and decision-based actions that I address here, in terms of the following two basic organizing questions:

• Where do you see yourself in five years, for what you seek to accomplish between now and then, and for where you seek to be at that point in time in your career and in your life? (Note: five years is arbitrary so pick a closer but still somewhat distant time point if that would work best for you. But I would generally recommend you’re not pushing your next-step of consideration time point any further out than five years for purposes of this exercise.)
• And what can you do today that might at least incrementally help you to move towards that goal?

Think and plan longer-term, and act in the here-and-now and with both shorter-term and immediate goals and requirements in mind, and with a matching awareness of that longer-term perspective as well.

Realistically, you have to meet you’re here-and-now needs now, and pay your bills and meet your current obligations now. You need to actually live in you’re here-and-now. Career planning and life planning in general, add in longer-term considerations to that so you do not simply drift from immediate here-and-now to immediate here-and-now and entirely reactively.

• Career planning is where and how you add proactive into this mix and into your work life as a whole. And this posting is about developing step by step practices in doing this, and ones that can become second nature to you that you would automatically turn to,
• Making proactive an automatic part of your work and career life.

And when you do this, you of necessity also gain a greater awareness of change and its potential, and certainly as that might impact upon your already considered possible paths forward as you reach towards the goals that you have longer-term set for yourself: those five years out and longer.

A great deal of this involves increasing your awareness of the context that you live and work in, and of the potential that this creates for shaping and reshaping what is both likely and possible for you, and at what costs and with what benefits depending on what actually arises. Let me take this out of the abstract with an example that has become all too real-world for way too many of us: the possibilities of employer retrenchment and staffing downsizings, and certainly for those of us who work in volatile industries, but actually for all of us when economic downturns are possible or if we work in a type of job or in a type of career path that might become automated.

I have written repeatedly in this blog of not simply taking any given current job or work circumstance for granted. Even a job that we really love and that we look forward to returning to, and every work day can change. And that holds, even when our employer actively wants us working there and wants us to stay.

• We can find ourselves with a new supervisor or boss, or with an ongoing supervisor or manager who we have comfortably reported to but with them now reporting to a new next level-up manager who seeks to empire build or otherwise make sudden and significant change and according to their own goals and plans.
• Our job itself and our basic tasks can be changed and in ways that move us out of our comfort zone and in ways that we might be hard pressed to become as comfortable with.
• And we can face a growing disconnect between what we are held responsible for and what we hold authority and voice over, and with more and more of what we do taken out of our hands, as far as even day-to-day decisions about it are made – but with us still responsible for all of the consequences.
• Workplace demands and pressures can change, and once collegial teams that have always worked together very smoothly can break apart and be replaced as old team members move on and new ones join in, who might have very different goals and agendas and ways of doing things, and ways of communicating.

This just lists a few of the possibilities of how a workplace and work environment can change and not always for the best. And on top of that, I add the possibilities of challenge to the entire business and its realizable potential for maintaining profitability, where as a worst case that can mean staff reductions as less profitable areas are trimmed back or cut out for financial, cash flow and liquidity reasons.

All of these points: all of these possibilities hold at least a few critically important points in common. And one that arises in particular significance in the context of this series, is the need for greater awareness of our work and its evolving context.

Change, and in both its positive and negative forms can arise suddenly and disruptively and without real warning. But most of the time, at least in retrospect, it turns out that there were indicators of what was to come and certainly for the negative possibilities there. To focus on the possibility of downsizing, that is a move that is almost never taken by a business without some warning signs and for all to see. Consider for example how a business can at least slowly, gradually drift into difficulty because of:

• A progressive loss of market share, that might or might not stem from their failure to keep what they offer compellingly relevant to the market,
• Or from overall market shrinkage where the same market share or even an increase there might still mean less business transacted – fewer sales, smaller sales or both and less revenue and profit generated, and with time a need for staff “right-sizing.”

I couched that in more retail business terms but the same applies to mission driven nonprofits and essentially any other business that might face loss of revenue and a need for belt tightening. Downsizings happen in circumstances that can be lot less predictable, but there are in fact almost always at least some warnings that they might take place too. And that is when the types of stay or go questions and decisions that I address for a wide range of contexts in my recent series: Should I Stay or Should I Go?, should come to mind (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416-458.)

If your current employer is heading in a direction that might lead to your being caught up in this type of a reorganization and regardless of your contributing value to the business, should you begin actively looking for new opportunity elsewhere, while working and with a steady paycheck still, or should you simply wait and hope for the best – and take a reactive approach to whatever happens? Prudence would probably dictate you’re at least looking so you can know your options and so you can have as wide a range of them as possible as you enter what might be a period of workplace and employment uncertainty. You should just do this with care so as not to tip your hand as to what you are doing, except under terms and at a time when that would be in your best interest, while continuing to offer value where you are now as a great employee while looking.

That addresses possible downside possibilities, but it can be just as important to keep your eyes open to new positive opportunities too, where positioning yourself for them might mean strategically developing new skills, taking on special assignments that would be doable for you but that would open the eyes of your supervisor to the range of what you can do, or both. Note: I did not add simply doing more of the same there, as that is not going to open doors to your doing new and different, in and of itself. That, on its own is mostly just going to further label you as reliable for what you have always been doing there, and nothing else.

• Ultimately, this posting and the issues that I address here, all centrally revolve around awareness and planning, and in an immediate tactical manner and with a longer-term strategic awareness.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to address the third point offered in my Part 1 list for this series:

• 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.

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.

Career planning 2: mapping out your career path

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 24, 2017

This is my second 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 Part 1.)

I wrote Part 1 of this series with two goals:

• To offer an organizing preview summary of at least a significant number of the basic issues and approaches that I will address in it, and
• To offer a more specific starter list of specific topic points that I will expand upon as I begin to flesh out that organizing summary into an at least hopefully actionable narrative.

I define, think through, plan, execute and refine career planning and development in forward-looking and proactive terms. And I mentor and train others in this area of endeavor in the same way, so summarizing what is to follow here in outline as a series beginning simply follows the approach that I would most strongly recommend for this.

The first point on my specific starter list from Part 1 can be thought of as carrying through on a jobs and careers mapping exercise, and as a matter of iteratively constructing and refining an ongoing two dimensional road map for what is to come. As essential background reference for this exercise, I repeat here a basic reference that I offered in Part 1 where I define and discuss a key term that I make use of in what follows: the constraints box. See Job Search and Your Constraints Box. And with that reference in place, and reorganizing and expanding the first to-address point from Part 1 as a starter for this installment, I stated that I would discuss here:

• A Timeline as representing one axis of a map to be,
• And what a career developer would look for in the way of sought-after goals and priorities, as being positioned along the second axis: a string of constraints box solutions for a succession of here-and-now career planning decisions, as the contents of that box shift and change over time – and with each of this succession of constraints box understandings treated here as if single set points for specific instances in time. To clarify that, consider each complete constraints box solution that is with time arrived at, as a single and essentially indivisible organized consensus point for purposes of this mapping: a single cohesive element and not as a more complex array of separate constituent parts, and with each such constraints box understanding, arrived at in its own time and place circumstances, aligned as separate and distinct points with respect to their own axis and along the timeline axis too.
• Then a mapped path forward becomes a journey from constraints box goals and understandings to constraints box goals and understandings, as they shift and change with time, and during the course of seeking out and working at specific jobs and over the course of a developing overall career path.
• And think of these two parameters: time, and goals and requirements, as together creating planning map patterns.
• Understanding where you have been in your goals and requirements and needs leading up to your current here and now can help inform you as to what you might find yourself preferring now and in the future and why.
• The more fully you can know how your goals and needs have changed up to your current now, the more fully you can know and understand your current perspectives on this. And the more fully you understand this progression, the more effectively you can plan and execute to reach those goals – and the more fully and meaningfully you can select the right next ones to work towards too, as your circumstances and needs continue to evolve.

Yes, mathematically speaking this map description means you’re in effect collapsing what might be multiple goals and needs considerations and dimensions down into a single flattened representation, and artifactually into a single seeming-dimension. But I offer this approach more as a thought piece and metaphor than as an explicitly mathematically mappable tool. And ultimately, when we make career decisions and follow through on them, we do so on an overall conclusions and consensus basis anyway – and with our planning for what to pursue next, a process of filtering and prioritizing what we have brought into our constraints boxes to reach single comprehensive path-forward goals and plans. We may start with a diversity of inputs in our decision making processes, but ultimately we arrive at a single conclusion that we would seek to follow through upon: a single point of conclusion and intended action if you will, that we actually pursue. So this metaphorical model, flattened as it is, does in fact at least somewhat mirror the planning processes that would actually be taken and certainly when decisive next step moves are arrived at.

Mapping details of that sort aside, the primary point that I am getting at here in this posting is important. Constraints boxes offer real value in the specific here-and-now situations and contexts that they are developed in, as immediate use planning tools. But they take on new levels of meaning and value as you track how they change and evolve, as you work and as you pursue your career, and as you live the rest of your live and participate in the live of your family where those larger contexts provide much of the shaping impetus for your work and career life.

I take a very visual approach to mapping out and understanding ongoing processes of this type, and in thinking through business contexts as well. Seek out the metaphorical and other representations that would help you to bring this into focus in meeting your own needs, if my road map analogy: my mapping metaphor does not work effectively for you. I offer this tool as one possibility that I find useful and that I have shared with others.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will address the second numbered topics point as initially offered here in Part 1:

• Thinking in terms of where you are now, and in terms of next possible steps that you might take now to specifically reach where you seek to be next.

This, in anticipation of discussion to come, is where initial planning first turns to initial action and follow-through.

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.

Career planning 1: from intention to action – an initial orienting discussion of what is to follow here

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 12, 2017

This is my first installment to a new series that I am adding as a main sequence component to my overall Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development directory in this blog. And to put it in perspective, I am offering this series at least in part as if a continuation of a variety of more career development oriented series and stand-alone postings that I have already included here, and as an organizing framework for tying them together. I have, to cite an example that is particularly relevant here, discussed a specific career development tool in postings such as Job Search and Your Constraints Box. This and related resources and the questions and issues that they raise will come up again in this series too.

My goal for this series is to offer a more organized framework for thinking about and pursuing a best-for-you, career path and overall work life. And I begin doing so by offering a specific conceptual framework that I have found effective when thinking about jobs and careers, that I will organize this series and its narrative around:

• A business model-based work life and career development paradigm: when you are conducting a job search or working at a specific job in some stage of your overall work life, and when you are thinking in terms of and actively developing and advancing along a career path, do so as if you were a business venture in and of yourself. Think and act like a business.

Think and act like a business – that bears repeating. Think and act like an entrepreneur and like a consultant, tasked with helping an employer achieve specific goals and as efficiently and effectively as possible, and like your own boss and the owner of your work life and career fate while doing so – and even when you are working entirely in-house for a single employer, at least at any one time and even if you intend to pursue that approach and take that type of work and career path throughout your entire work life: even if you plan on working for some single employer throughout your entire work life.

What does this mean? Answering that question and in operational, practical terms is the primary goal of this series as a whole. But in short, this means thinking and acting operationally and tactically, and strategically – and it means balancing and connecting those approaches in ways that would work best for you. It means thinking ahead and in due diligence terms and yes, risk management terms as well. It means thinking in terms of case study examples that might offer positive or negative role models for your own decision making and its follow through. Sometimes we arrive at our own best practices but it is always important and even essential to keep learning from the experiences of others as well: positive and negative, when seeking out next steps that might be best for you.

I begin to flesh out that more generally and abstractly stated beginning to this series with a cartoon oversimplification that I will variously reexamine as I proceed here:

• Job search and specific jobs take place at a more tactical level and certainly in their day-to-day execution.
• Careers and career planning and development are of necessity strategic exercises and are always longer-term.
• And these, in practice, are just simplifications of a larger and more compelling reality.

Both of these points have elements of truth in them but both are oversimplifications and show for that when considered in detail. I will do that here, and I begin that at the beginning and in fact with the constraints box and its issues and opportunities.

• You cannot effectively carry out a systematically planned work life and one that can come to create consistent satisfaction and value for you – at least with any reliability or assurance of success, if you do not think through and know what holds value and meaning for you in this and what you seek to maintain and achieve from it. You need to know and you need to think and act in terms of your goals and priorities, or you will just drift.
• This holds equally true in a here-and-now jobs context and in a longer, career timeframe context. Know yourself and your priorities and needs, and think through and know what you seek to reach in your job and work life – which is the functional goal that developing and thinking through a constraints box is intended to help you reach in the first place.

There is an old saying that if you do not know where you are going, any road will do. Most possible work life paths will not in fact lead you to anything like an ideal destination as you would define that, but “any road” will lead you somewhere. This posting and this series as a whole are about knowing and choosing, so you take a right road and reach what for you would be good and even your best possible points along that journey.

I am going to address a progression of issues in this series, and begin it here by offering a briefly stated to-address list of them, that I am certain to expand upon as I proceed. But I start this series with this list to help orient where this series as a whole is going, and its path in getting there:

1. Timelines, and what you would look for in the way of sought-after goals and priorities as an organized whole and as considered at a single point in time: think of these as the two parameters as axes of a two dimensional map with one axis representing time and the other representing what you would focus on and prioritize and work towards at varying points along that timeline.
2. Thinking in terms of where you are now, and in terms of next possible steps that you might take now to specifically reach where you seek to be next.
3. 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.
4. Mentors and mentoring and from both sides of the table, and pursuing opportunities to learn and grow professionally.
5. Career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis, and thinking and planning beyond the scope of this list’s Point 2.
6. Thinking through change, and in what you seek out as your desired goals and priorities, and as change shapes the circumstances that you face while deciding that.
7. And then I will return to the reconsider careers from a more details oriented analytical perspective, and from a bigger picture synthesis perspective in light of this progression of issues and the questions that they collectively raise.

And to add a more overarching point of discussion that I will address the above in terms of, I will examine the above sets of issues, and others that arise in this series in terms of:

• What we bring to the table that we can offer as a source of value to a hiring and employing business. I made note of the prospective new hire’s or employee’s constraints box above, and what they – what we would want offered or allowed for us. That only represents one side to a larger and crucially important dynamic balance of needs and priorities. And understanding that is crucially important to any understanding of or planning for here-and-now work or overall career life. You always have to think in terms of what you want for yourself and in terms of what you offer in exchange for that value received, to make either side of this balance of needs work for you.
• And change is one of the defining features of this balance and for both of its two defining sides.
• And as a defining feature of this that is often not considered, we all tend to take old assumptions for both what we offer and what we need for granted, and even as they begin to drift out of relevance. And it is one that we can all too easily take for granted if we fail to see and understand how an employer’s needs, goals and priorities change too.
• This can become a matter of obvious importance in retrospect, but planning for and advancing along an effective career path calls for more proactive anticipation of what is possible here too, and from both an employee and an employer perspective, and regardless of which side of that table you are sitting at.
• It is important to think through and understand and execute in terms of here-and-now understandings. But it is at least as important to pursue this approach in the longer timeframes of career planning and execution too, where skills and experience held might even drift from being cutting edge in value to an employer to only holding legacy value at most for them – and certainly in fast paced industries. I focused more on the “want” side of this at the start of this posting; I will also look at its matching, “while offering” side of it in the series as a whole, and as a fundamental, negotiations-driven part of actually working as an entrepreneur and a consultant – and wherever you work.

I just completed a postings series for inclusion in this Guide: Should I Stay or Should I go?, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 as postings 416 and following. And I ended its last installment: its Part 43 with the following lead-in text for what was to follow it:

• “I am going to end this series with this installment, and will continue my main sequence postings and series in this Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development from here, with a next series that is also career development oriented. I have for the most part treated the career planning process per se in this series, as if a black box problem, where context and needs inputs go in one end and decision point considerations come out of the other – and with any more explicitly operational and strategic activities that develop those outputs from those inputs remaining hidden and unexamined. My goal for my next-coming series in this Guide, is to invert that perspective and with a focus on discussing and analyzing what is going in inside that box.”

I have just outlined something here, as to how I am going to open up and peer into that box in this series. And I will begin to more systematically do so in my next series installment to this, and with Point 1 from the above list and its 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.

When expertise becomes an enemy of quality service 18 – taking an overarching strategic approach to this

Posted in career development, HR and personnel, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 10, 2017

This is my eighteenth installment to a series on expertise, and on what an employee or manager needs to bring along with it, if it is to offer real value and either to themselves or to the business they work for (see my supplemental postings section at the end of Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 69 and following, for Parts 1-17.)

I have been at least relatively systematically addressing a range of issues, contexts, circumstances and scenarios in the first seventeen installments to this series, that all hold at least a few underlying points of commonality. One of the most important of them, and certainly from the perspective of this 18th installment to that, is that I have been variously approaching the issues and challenges of:

• Finding, bringing in and retaining people with real skills and who could offer real value to a business, and in ways that let them live up to their full potential,
• While simultaneously maintaining a workplace where all employees and at all levels of the table of organization know that they are being treated fairly, that they have an equal opportunity to succeed and to grow professionally, and where they have an equal chance at advancement and with that only dependent upon their work performance and ability.

There is of necessity a dynamic balance, inherent in this dichotomy. And that becomes particularly relevant and I add apparent when a Human Resources and Personnel department sets and follows its policy and practices:

• For the way that they work with and support more routine-skills and experience employees,
• And in how it works with and accommodates special skills and experience ones:
• Employees who are essential as far as their skills and experience are categorically needed but who are not as individually indispensible or irreplaceable, and employees who are essential and who might in fact be essentially irreplaceable, at least within critically essential timeframes where they are critically necessary.

I admittedly somewhat cryptically stated at the end of Part 17, that I would continue on from its line of discussion (there considering personnel training and related issues, vis-à-vis personnel-related information security and business alignment at that level), to consider:

• “The issues that I have been raising here in this series,” from an overall business strategy and business development perspective, as businesses face both evolutionary and more predictable change, and disruptive and unpredictable change.

I have at least attempted to address the issues and circumstances raised throughout this series in a manner that is compatible with a more explicit inclusion of ongoing change. But I have largely delved into the more specific issues and circumstances addressed in this series and certainly up to here, from a more fixed in time and here-and-now snapshot perspective. My goal for this posting is to very explicitly consider change contexts and particularly where a once effective and even best practice approach can become outdated and even dysfunctionally problematical.

I in effect began addressing that in Part 17 when I cited as an all too familiar type of working example: how senior managers and leaders of Human Resources and Personnel departments fell into a trap in their understanding of what types of compensation and related personnel information actually have to be safely held in-house and as strictly confidential and proprietary, and what types and levels of this can be shared, and even by individual employees through online social media, and through websites such as glassdoor. And I compared the more draconian, hold all such information as if top secret approach as taken by older-style businesses, and even just regarding the willing sharing of an employee’s own compensation, or of entirely general demographic level information on this, to Roman Emperor Caligula’s attempt to frighten Poseidon into backing off the tide when he wanted to hold a picnic on the beach! Draconian there as a label of impact, proved itself as a matter of basic policy to be more appropriate a term for the effect of older policy and practice on those businesses themselves and on their own underlying interests, than it did to wayward employees – and certainly where the goal was to bring in and keep the best.

New dividing lines had to be arrived at in distinguishing between what types and levels of personnel information have to be kept confidential and what in practice actually does not. And this new understanding and new policy and practice that would develop from it, had to be both supported from and enforced from the top of these departments, and from more senior executive management as well, in operationally distinguishing between what has to be kept entirely in-house and in only certain allowed areas there, and what can become more open and publically known – where complete confidentiality has become impossible in a world so interconnected through the interactive online and social media context that we all now live in.

That represents one working example of how change in a business’ context – here the emergence of an interactively online social media community that crosses traditional boundaries, can compel a need for change and even fundamental change in a business itself, and certainly for anything related to personnel policy or expectations. Considering this from a larger perspective that includes both a business itself and its competitive context. This boundary crossing has called for a fundamental rethinking of traditional business-to-business contexts too, and the potential for sharing sensitive information with business rivals as they seek out the same best employees that your business does. And it also and at least as actively means boundary crossing between hiring and potentially hiring businesses, and the community of workforce participants who seek or who might seek to find new employment opportunity, and who both need and actively seek out as much information as possible as to what any particular, individual company can offer and both normatively and as best terms from a new hire’s perspective.

Think of this in terms of a hiring business and a potential new hire job candidate playing cards: high stakes poker perhaps, and the players on the company side finding themselves with some of their cards showing that they used to be able to keep hidden – but where all such businesses have now come to face that same challenge so this has not necessarily created special advantage for any of them. It has just shifted the overall balance of potential advantage that they all face. This type of shift in what a business faces and in what it has to expect can create compelling need for it to change its policy and practices and from the top down and from the bottom up (from the experience of individual job hiring campaigns in that.) And this type of scenario and ones that are functionally like it can arise through:

• The emergence of sudden and disruptive change,
• Or slow and evolutionary change – and particularly in this case when an increasingly disconnected status quo, “tried and true” understanding and policy is simply maintained as is, until something bad arises from its continued use.

The second of those possibilities is not all that likely to arise when simply hiring for routine positions and certainly when there are more prospective job candidates out there actively looking for those types of positions than there are such positions to fill. This is going to arise and even painfully so when the need is pressingly intense to bring in and hire – or to retain a special skills, high priority employee and where hiring and retention are anything but a buyer’s market for the business.

I identify this posting in its title tagline as one that addresses “taking an overarching strategic approach to this.” Strategy by its very nature takes a longer timeframe and a wider context perspective than do day-to-day tactical implementation, or the “this is how we do things” linear momentum of routine business practice as it of necessity templatizes tactical solutions and resolutions into routine, standardized accepted business process and practice. Ultimately, when I write of change here, and in a more meaningful context that just that of exception handling: when I write of more fundamental and long-term change in what would and would not go into tactical level practice and implementation and on a routine basis, I write of underlying, or if you will overarching strategy. And once again, this brings me back to the more senior managers and leaders of a business, and of that business as a whole and of its key functional areas. And this brings me back to the lower implementation levels where any strategic decisions: any change or any carefully considered continuation of policy or practice would be reality checked. The issues that I address here cannot ever be considered fully established; change happens and have to be responded to and proactively where possible, and certainly if a business seeks to develop and create a competitive advantage for itself through how it maintains its personnel and its key staffing.

I am going to conclude both this posting and this series with that point, though I am certain to return to issues and questions raised in these eighteen installments in future postings and series too. Meanwhile, 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. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Should I stay or should I go? 43: reconsidering work lives, careers and change as an ongoing progression

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on March 31, 2017

This is my 43rd installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-42.)

I have been addressing a fairly wide range of issues and challenges, and opportunities too in course of writing this series. And I begin this installment to it by acknowledging that their diversity and the variety of distinctive defining points that they present, can make their differences appear to overwhelm any possible underlying similarities. What, for example does working with a difficult colleague, as delved into in Part 2: interpersonal conflict and related challenges have to do with retirement planning as more recently considered here in Parts 29-35 of this series? Retirement, among other things represents a transition point in which we leave the workplace and its dynamics, and our having to work effectively with colleagues in a professional setting, the difficult among them included.

I could as easily have selected any of a range of other disparate-seeming pairs of topics that I have addressed in this series, as a poster child example of the range of apparent differences covered.

• What do all of the issues and scenarios that are included here hold most significantly in common, and across their range of differences?
• What is the underlying thread that ties all of this series together?
• My goal for this posting is to step back from the more immediate and in-context pressing details the specific issues touched upon and examined here, to at least offer a first step answer to these two questions. And I begin doing so by picking up on a word that I slipped into the immediately preceding paragraph: “transitions.”

I have been writing throughout this series about work life as it is experienced, and as it is planned for – and as more backed into in that too and certainly when viewed from a longer-term career path perspective. And I have been pursuing that as one of the core common threads running through all of this: the ongoing need for ongoing systematic planning and of execution that is based upon it. But more significantly perhaps, I have been addressing issues and circumstances and decision points in which we face transition choices in our work lives – and even profoundly long-term impactful ones. And an underlying message that I have at least sought to convey through all of this diversity of narrative is the importance of being as aware and as proactively aware as possible of where you are now and where events and developments might take you – and take you to passively and without your having any meaningful, effective choice if you do simply back into them.

• My overall goal for this series has been, through discussion and analysis of a wide range of scenarios, to offer a better alternative – or rather a clearer perspective on how you can find your own better alternatives.
• And my goal in that has been to offer you tools that you can use in stepping out front in making your own decisions, transition embracing and otherwise, that would give you the widest range of options that might be good for you to chose from, and the most opportunity to achieve the best from them.

I chose the title “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” for this series with that point in mind and with “change and move”, or “not and remain where you are” transition decisions in mind. And to clarify a very important point there, a genuine “or not and remain where you are” decision option is often not actually going to be available and certainly when the pressure to make a transition decision is high. Then this in fact actually tends to become a your-choice or a default, not of your choice or design decision. There are exceptions there as for example if your choice is to stay in a primarily hands-on work and career path position where you thrive and find real happiness, or move into management – where you would have to set a lot of your direct hands-on work experience aside. But it is important to always be aware of where you would have the most deciding power in shaping your own work life and career path, and in terms that meet your needs and desires. Awareness and planning are everything here, and certainly over any long-term.

Note: I just added a new transition point decision scenario to this series with the hands-on or management decision. I have noted it and variations on it in passing here, but I have not really examined it in any depth. That new scenario selection was intentional here; I actively acknowledge that for all of its length, I have only addressed a selection of just a few of the more commonly encountered range of topics and issues that I could have looked into here that can lead to significant career transitions. One of my goals for this posting is to prompt you to think more widely about the range and types of issues that I could have been addressing here, than just the scope of those issues themselves that I have written about. What can and should you really see and consider and not just look past, and what can and should you know and really understand for its implications, if you are to make the best choices for yourself and in a larger context for your family too, and when facing essentially any workplace or career context that is likely to lead to change – or at least a significant potential for a need for it? And what can you be doing now that would help you identify and navigate change in the contexts that you find yourself living and working in, potential transition point contexts included?

I find myself thinking back to my own work life and career path as I write this posting, and to a point in time that in retrospect marked my moving from a significantly hands-on professional work life to an essentially entirely managerial and leadership one. I loved what I was doing leading up to that transition, and there was a measure of overlap in moving from the one to the other so I was not facing the equivalent of falling off of a cliff there. And I really enjoyed what I came to do next too and what I had already been doing at an increasingly significant part of my overall work. But even going through this prepared, and with my eyes open, I still felt a measure of dislocation and even loss when one day I suddenly realized that a door I had always seen as being there and at least somewhat open, was in effect entirely gone now.

• Transitions are not always going to seem completely unambiguously positive, and they cannot always be expected to be easy, and emotionally and in terms of your self-identity if nothing else,
• And even when they are the best choices for you objectively,
• And even when they are by far the best that might be available for how they are planned for and carried out, and for both you and your family.
• Gaining new forms of good can and often does mean losing at least a measure good too, and even comfortingly familiar good.

That observation, and the thread of reasoning that underlies it runs through essentially all of the detail-varying scenes and scenarios that I have been addressing in all of this series too.

I am going to end this series with this installment, and will continue my main sequence postings and series in this Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development from here, with a next series that is also career development oriented. I have for the most part treated the career planning process per se in this series, as if a black box problem, where context and needs inputs go in one end and decision point considerations come out of the other – and with any more explicitly operational and strategic activities that develop those outputs from those inputs remaining hidden and unexamined. My goal for my next-coming series in this Guide, is to invert that perspective and with a focus on discussing and analyzing what is going in inside that box.

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.

Should I stay or should I go? 42: couples and family considerations 7

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on March 15, 2017

This is my 42nd installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-41.) And I have been focusing here on work and career planning as they take place in larger contexts than just the individual, since Part 36.

I began shifting this line of discussion from a “simplest” baseline couples-only context, to include consideration of a wider range of family members in Part 40 and Part 41. And after briefly and selectively considering a set of common scenarios that arise in this larger context, I ended that phase of this narrative by noting that I would turn here to step back from precisely how wide a range of family has to be included here when considering the longer-term per se.

More specifically, I said that I would consider the wider narrative of this series, and particularly as I have been developing it from Part 29: retiring, and phasing out of work as a work-life transition 1, in terms of “long-term and immediate-crisis, health and other life changing events.” I said at the end of Part 41 that I would primarily focus on the couples level for this here, and I will more explicitly write at that level at least as a starting point. But the issues that I raise here involve and impact on how we face and address wider-ranging family issues and challenges too, in our work, career and life planning.

I begin by referring back to a set of basic foundational postings from my early writings to this blog on jobs and careers, that has come up repeatedly in this series too. In effect, my entire Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development connects together as a single ongoing narrative, even if it is one that delves into a range of alternative types of career paths. Tools that I offer and discuss as of use earlier in a work life can and do, in many cases come back as relevant later on too. In this case, I make note of a tool that comes back into relevance at essentially any possible career turning point, from work-life beginning to ending: the constraints box as a planning tool. See:

Structuring an Effective Elevator Pitch (where I first define the term constraints box) and
Job Search and Your Constraints Box (and also see two immediately related postings that can also be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as its postings 25 and 26.)

The fundamental point that I would raise here when citing these postings again, is the complex of issues of knowing when and how to evolve and update your individual constraints box, and your and your spouse’s combined constraints box as that is explicitly considered in this series in its Part 37: couples and family considerations 2.

And I couch this posting and its narrative, in terms of an approach that I have offered and delved into fairly extensively in this blog – in a business strategy and operations planning and execution context, and particularly where I have focused on due diligence and risk management-based approaches to understanding and responding to change. I have noted in that context that change can in effect creep up on you, and even for what would with time become severely challenging adverse change. And this type of change can arise in either your circumstances or in your capacity to flexibly, effectively function within them and even in both.

• A change and even what in retrospect was an adverse pattern of it that has offered warning signs, can be overlooked and ad hoc worked around, through unconsidered adherence to a business as usual approach, until a tipping point is reached and it seems to suddenly erupt as if a new and disruptive challenge. True disruptive challenges that suddenly arise and without being predictable or anticipatable do happen too, but severe challenges that only come to be understood in the retrospect of after the fact analysis and review are commoner: the ones that in retrospect could have and should have been seen coming and that could have been either limited or prevented.
• And both of these patterns of challenge can and do in our own planning and its ongoing execution too, and in our job and career planning and in how we carry it out.

I have, in other series at least briefly noted how people who find themselves blindsided by a sudden workplace downsizing, often in retrospect have to admit that there were warning signs out there that this might happen – warning signs that for whatever reason they did not pick up on and begin to Plan B prepare for, just in case. In a more end of career and end of work life context, it becomes that much more pressing that you think plan and prepare and as proactively as possible – and even when that means looking directly at what you would most want to avoid, and even at that which you would most fear to see actually arise. People early in their careers might have time to reorient and make up for lost ground, and in planning and in longer-term investing for their future and more. When you are fast approaching or even entering retirement, you do not have the luxury of time in the same way – unless of course you can and are willing to simply defer retiring until still older and until you might no longer be able to do the things that you have planned and dreamed of doing in retirement that you have held as being most important to you.

I am writing this at least in large part in terms of a couple’s retirement scenario and absent the further complications and complexities of having to expend time, financial resources, and effort – and other limited assets through a larger circle of commitment. As immediately preceding installments in this phase of this series indicates, those complications can enter in too – and I add either slowly and without being acknowledged or prepared for, or suddenly and catastrophically.

• How can you prepare for this and with the resiliency that you would need? Plan for and live within your means – and that means within the available sustainable limitations that you face financially and for any other consideration that you might see as representing a crucially limited resource. And certainly for your financial reserves, develop and carry through on your combined constraints box-based plans as discussed in Part 37 here, with a built in extra reserves cushion included and adhered to – and not just because an economic downturn can make the value of your long-term retirement investments and related assets fall. Unexpected costs and challenges can arise too, that would force you to eat into those reserves in unexpected ways and at an unexpected pace.
• And if you do face significant challenge here, maintain your flexibility and resiliency by reprioritizing what you would do in retirement, staying within the comfortable-to-you range of your combined constraints box as possible, but doing so more selectively in what you do within it. What in your combined constraints box is in fact still important, and most important to you now and what might you see as more downgraded in importance as you review all of this from a new perspective? I have raised this question already in this series and reprise it for further consideration here too.
• And then if you need to, ask yourself what aspects of your constraints box requirements are more dispensable, and to both you and your spouse or life partner, and how and why. Where can you most comfortably step out of a part of your earlier planning and what of it can you set aside as no longer important enough to try to force? What can you do instead that would still bring you a sense of meaning and value and that you could find satisfaction and even happiness in? Look for new positives if you have to relinquish some of your grip on older ones. No, this is not easy and it can even involve going through something or a mourning process – but it is one you can come into the light from again if you keep looking and keep moving forward through all of this. And yes, this can at times seem to have become an “all of this.” But that does not always have to be so in reality and in the reality that you can achieve.

Most of us do not see anything like that worst case scenario. And yes, I set up those three bullet points in something of a best case to worst case order and for a reason. Growing older is not for wimps and neither is the sometimes disruptive life change of retirement. But people can and do succeed and thrive in them and even when they have to face adversity in the process – and the third bullet point contingencies that I just noted above.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to in effect reconsider some of the basic issues raised in this series as a whole, in light of my overall progression of sub-series and sub-narratives that I have been developing here. I have written of a number of separate and perhaps seemingly unrelated challenges and opportunities here, but they do have commonly held issues running through them. My goal in for the next posting to this series is not going to be to summarize all that I have written about here as to offer a more general perspective on career, and life planning that is grounded in the types of situations, scenarios, challenges and opportunities that I have been separately and variously looking into here. 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.

Should I stay or should I go? 41: couples and family considerations 6

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on March 3, 2017

This is my 41st installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-40.)

I began expanding this line of discussion, from focusing on a “simplest” baseline couples-only context, to include a wider range of family members in Part 40. And I wrote of raising children, and by parents and also by grandparents there, as case in point examples of how wider reaching family support can and does impact upon and even fundamentally shape our work and career planning and its follow-through. Then I said at the end of that installment that I would turn here to consider aging parents and how addressing their needs can influence and shape our more couple’s-oriented work and career decisions – and our overall here and now life decisions too.

I begin this with the sometimes difficult and even painful process of seeing and acknowledging that our parents – who for many of us were once our pillars of strength, and certainly when we were young, coming to need our help as they age. This, however marks a turn of events that many of us come to face, and often as we are advancing in our careers and when we still have ongoing commitments to both our spouses and to our growing children.

Let’s think about this in a less abstract way, by considering at least one possible but nevertheless quite realistic scenario:

• You and your immediate nuclear family – your wife and three children are happy with your lives, but you and I add they too, see real opportunity in change. Your wife has just been given a career advancement opportunity that sounds too be so good, that none of you would want to let it pass by without trying for it. But this new job with its big career step advancement, would require her and her family – you and the kids, moving out of state.
• You know that you could land a new job yourself too, and a good one with this move. And your youngest child is heading to college in a couple of months and will be living on campus much of the year. None of your three would face anything like school dislocations, and certainly not in the middle of a school year. So this career move sounds like it would have much more of an up-side than a down-side and for everyone immediately and directly involved.
• Then your mother falls and breaks a hip and your father is in no position to be able to help her, and certainly for the full range of supportive assistance that she will now need. Both of your parents want to be able to stay in their own home, which is only a couple of miles from where you and your wife and children live now. And both of them very definitely wish to avoid their having to move to anything like an assisted living community, as they know people who have gone to nursing homes and are afraid of what that means, and both for their quality of life and for their retaining a significant measure of independence. True, assisted living facilities and the like are very different from nursing homes, and certainly from the bleak institutional facilities that your mom and dad hold fears about. But that is what they know of and that is what they fear happening to them if they leave their house and home of decades together.
• What do you do? Do you stay where you are, continuing to live near them so you can “help out”, foregoing this exciting new opportunity? Or do you take the job offer and move, and try to find alternative forms of support that your parents would find more comfortable and less threatening – with them staying in their own home of long standing? Or do you seek to find an alternative that is more in the direction of an older adults, assisted living facility, that they might find acceptable, or what? Do you even know your full range of options, or what they would variously entail?

What I am writing of here is the need to know your options. And this means thinking proactively – and not just starting to address this when a fall and fracture have already happened. And I am writing about the need to communicate, with that including you’re finding out about issues such as your parent’s fear of old age institutionalization. What is becoming more possible as an emergent challenge or even likely as one, for example when an aging parent begins to become more unsteady on their feet? Do they need grab bars in the bathroom, for example when getting in and out of a tub or shower, or better positioned railings on their stairs? What resources are available if an accident does happen, including professional home visit support, and from where and at what costs and to whom? And as a part of that point of consideration, what part of that sort of support would be covered by the health and other insurance your parents already have, and for which agencies or other sources of such assistance? This is where preemptive insight and guidance from a professional such as a geriatric health care manager can be invaluable, as an essential proactive and preparatory/preventative step.

Know the issues you face and that you might face yourself and with your spouse or significant other. Know as much as you can about the issues and the resources and the choices that you might need and that can become available, and certainly for any more likely scenarios that would call for them. And be as proactively prepared as possible while still knowing that the unexpected and unpredicted can still happen.

I have addressed the issues of children and of aging parents here. Are there any others in your wider family (e.g. a handicapped brother or sister) who might also come to depend upon you for support and in ways that could significantly impact upon your work, career or overall life planning and decision making? What I am writing about here is the need to prepare, and for specific possibilities that it would make sense for you and your spouse to prepare for. And I am writing here of doing so with a goal of achieving and maintaining a more general flexibility and adaptability in what you can do, and comfortably for you and your family. And I am writing about not getting a phone call late one evening to find out that a possibility that you had never even considered, but that in retrospect should have been obvious, has just happened – such as that fall and fracture, that planning for might have even prevented.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider long-term and immediate crisis health and other life changing events in a family, framing that narrative in primarily couples terms. As we age: ourselves and our spouse or significant other, we can all expect to at least eventually come to these challenges and certainly if we remain together in an ongoing committed relationship. And I will at least briefly discuss resources that can be developed and made available to limit longer-term deleterious impact.

• When I write of jobs, I of necessity do so from the wider and longer-term context of careers and career paths. When I write here of careers and career paths, I of necessity do so from the wider and longer-term context of our overall lives and those of our immediately connected and actively involved families – at the very least. So any discussion of this type has to allow for and include consideration of that wider life context too. And that is what I have been doing here and it is what I will continue doing in my next installment to this series, too.

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.

Should I stay or should I go? 40: couples and family considerations 5

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on February 19, 2017

This is my 40th installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-39.)

I have been focusing on couples, as a simplest case scenario in Parts 36-39 of this series, and begin this posting’s continuation of that narrative by noting that all of the issues that I have raised and addressed there, apply here too. It is just that this time and in this series installment, I add more complications into “couples and family considerations” as noted in its title.

“Family” can hold a wide range of committed and involved meanings here, as critically impacting upon and even fundamentally shaping (or reshaping) careers and retirement decisions and their follow-through. To cite an example of this, that might not automatically come to mind for everyone reading this posting, consider grandparents who suddenly find themselves raising one or more of their grandchildren and taking on renewed parental roles and responsibilities while doing so. According to a February 16, 2016 PBS News Hour report, some 2.7 million grandparents are currently raising grandchildren in the United States (see More Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren .) And in many countries and cultures grandparents have traditionally played at least an actively supportive role in this too. And even then, circumstances have forced many grandparents into taking a more fully parental role there too. I cite by way of example, grandparents in African and other nations that were hard-hit by the AIDS epidemic when it was at its peak, who had to raise their grandchildren because their own children – the parents of those now bereft children were no longer there to raise them themselves.

I began with a perhaps less expected but still fairly common pattern in which people approaching – or already in retirement can find themselves taking financial and time commitment and other responsibilities for family that go beyond simply being part of a committed couple’s relationship. And I did so for a very simple reason: family commitments and responsibilities can arise in ways and from directions that are not always readily predictable. And they can arise in ways that demand significant changes in plans and in what is possible in them. And with that noted, I turn to consider two types of scenarios that can perhaps be more predictably expected, and certainly if you begin this narrative earlier on in retirement planning and well before actually tapering off and ending a work life would be expected – when we begin preparing for that eventuality so we can maintain as good a quality of life for ourselves and our life’s partner when we do retire. And those scenarios are raising children, and caring for aging parents who now need assistance and certainly if they are to retain any independence in their lives.

I begin this with what for many is at least in principle, the most expectable scenario of all, for wider family involvement here: children.

Couples often marry with at least loosely defined and thought through goals of having children and raising them – and with ideas as to how and where, and of what this means to them. And children are expensive and in more ways than just directly monetarily. Our children both enrich and significantly shape our lives – and our plans, including our longer term plans: retirement preparations definitely included. Raising children and carrying the expenses of doing so, shapes our career and employment decisions, and what types of work we pursue and take on. This all impacts upon how, and how much we can set aside financially and for what. And then, at least hopefully our children grow up and move out on their own, attending college and graduating and taking on jobs and entering into career paths of their own – and we become empty nesters and even if we do not become depressed from a sense of loss from this happening as the term empty nest syndrome implies. And to turn back to the “simplifying fairy tale narrative” once again, that I initially made note of in Part 38, “then they live happily ever after.” This line of discussion leads me to yet another “and then they live happily ever after” presumption.

And at this point in this narrative, I could cite any of a wide range of references and resources that I have offered here in this blog, about how the workplace and employability have been changing, and about the still recent Great Recession and its slow recover for employment aftermath. Children who go to college or otherwise complete their formal education, and seek to find their way into employment and the workforce do not always succeed – and certainly without delays. And empty nesters who have planned for their years post-child rearing, can suddenly find themselves with one or more grown children moving back in with them again. This happens; I did not end that last sentence before this one with an exclamation point of surprise and for a reason. It might not fit the standard pattern for anyone’s happily ever after but like finding yourself raising grandchildren as if your children, this is a contingency that does arise and for many – at least for periods of time.

• What I have been writing about here, is the need for flexibility in your retirement planning and in your life planning and from early on in your work life preparations for all of this. And what I am writing of here is the need for resiliency in being able to find and accept Plan B alternatives, when and as need for them arises. And this, ultimately all rests upon knowing what truly is important to you, and where you can find your joy in life – and what might be nice but that ultimately is just one possible vision of what you could do, that can be changed and replaced with new possibilities.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider aging parents and the sometimes need for their children to care for or support them in some way, and with impact on their own lives and decisions in the process. And after that I am going to briefly return to consider couples again, this time addressing the challenge of illness and quality of live as that impacts upon couples and their shared lives – and their retirement and retirement planning.

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.

Should I stay or should I go? 39: couples and family considerations 4

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on February 7, 2017

This is my 39th installment to a series on intentionally entered into, fundamental job and career path change, and on best practices for deciding both when and how to carry through on it (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for Parts 1-38.)

I have been discussing the questions and issues of couples and families, as they impact upon jobs and careers decision of their members, over the course of the past three installments to this series. And a big part of that narrative has focused on deciding and sharing and reconciling what is truly important for the people involved here. I have focused in all of this on couples, where that can mean husband and wife, or any two-person deeply committed relationship and with or without legally formal marriage involved. And then at the end of Part 38, I said that I would move on from there to consider more wide-ranging family obligations and commitments, and how others, and their needs and preferences can enter into this too.

I will in fact specifically address that complex of issues, or at least select aspects of it. But before doing so, I want to return to the couples level of this overall discussion, to consider one more perhaps-complicating, and certainly decision influencing contingency: the question of how to plan and execute end of work life changes and transitions when one of a couple wants or needs to retire, but the other partner in such a relationship is not ready to do so too, at least yet.

On the face of things, this sounds fairly straightforward and certainly if both people would prefer to stay where they are geographically – continuing to live in their same home community and even in the same house or apartment there. One member of such a couple simply continues to work, while the other tapers off in what they do professionally or finishes with that phase of their life overall. And picking up here, on a line from the “simplifying fairy tale narrative” that I made note of in Part 38, “then they live happily ever after.”

And that is where the complications enter in and even if one party is not arguing a case that they should move, for example, to a warmer climate while the other argues that they have to stay where they are for their job – “and besides, all of our friends live here. I don’t want to lose all of that and neither should you.” Complications can arise and even when seemingly everything appears to be in place and in agreement in the combined, shared constraints box wish list that these two people have worked out together (as discussed in Part 37 and Part 38 as a shared hands-on planning exercise.)

Let’s consider a couple of these new and emergent issues here, as a brief sampling of what is possible:

• Until now, both partners in a couples relationship were working and full time, and both were bringing in paychecks and steady sources of income. Now, this has all changed and one of the two involved here is suddenly bringing in most or even all of their salary-based income. And the dynamics of their relationship can change accordingly, and certainly if the one bread winner in this relationship feels that they now of necessity lead that relationship and that they should have a larger say – at least on financial and expenses matters.
• Coordinately with that, couples can suddenly find themselves disagreeing on how each spends their time. And this can go both ways. A still full-time working partner in such a relationship can find themselves angrily arguing that their less or non-working partner should be spending at least a lot more of their time taking care of household responsibilities now, as they are no longer working. And a less or non-working member of such a household can become resentful of overtime and of work brought home, taking away from what they would want to see as family time.

I just mention two possibilities here, focusing on issues that would not likely appear in a shared wish list constraints box – where the basic assumption that is more usually in place is that both partners in this relationship have fully retired from their work life and career path per se. Constraints box issues can arise here too, and particularly where they involve intended and with-time expected change, as for example in where a couple lives.

• And some of these issues can also emerge if one of a couple transitions from fully paid professional position work, to actively participating in volunteer or other ongoing commitment activities. That can skew what had seemed to be shared expectations too, and certainly if this type of “post-career career” takes on a life of its own and becomes more involving, and time and attention consuming than initially expected.
• Sometimes this type of complication to couple’s planning can be anticipated, but sometimes unexpected factors enter in – including boredom, if one or both of a retiring couple find that they need to bring more structure and commitment into how they use their time again.
• And this set of points highlights just one area where the type of Plan B contingencies, and need for them, that I made note of in Part 38 can arise.

Both members of a couple’s relationship have to be true to themselves if their relationship is to work, and stably supportively so. And both have to be willing to accept that their partner in this might find their being true to themselves too, means acknowledging previously unconsidered needs on both partners’ part. And both have to be willing to adapt and adjust to meet the needs of their partner in this too, and the dynamics of all of this can get a bit complicated at times. A life change such as retirement is a disruptive change, and that means it is going to offer learning and discovery opportunities, and even where everything has seemed to be settled and unchanging in the planning. And that effort at open adaptability, is a game that both have to be able and willing to play.

And with this noted, I will finally widen out family in this discussion to consider more than just couples per se. And I will further discuss the unexpected and how it can arise and need to be addressed – where I have already at least begun to consider that here. 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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