Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career planning 7: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on June 23, 2017

This is my seventh 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 1-6.)

I began this series by offering a very briefly stated outline of what I would delve into in it, at least as a matter of building a foundation for further discussion there (see Part 1.) And I have at least briefly addressed the first four points offered in that list in its first 7 installments. I turn here to at least begin to address the fifth basic point that I listed there, which I repeat here, restated for this posting’s immediate context:

• Career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis, and of thinking and planning beyond the limitations and givens of where you are now, and in terms of next possible steps that you might take as you seek to succeed in any current job that you hold and as you advance and prepare to advance along a career path.

I begin this posting by repeating a point of observation that I have offered to others who I have mentored and helped train, and that I have found of value in my own career development and in my own overall work life:

• Where do you see yourself five years from now 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?

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to outline how to do this, and with a realistic-to-you focus and particularly where you do not necessarily know a best long-term answer for yourself as you start out. This two bullet point observation offers a useful career development perspective as stated and when it is simply considered in general terms. It does, after all, offer a general direction for identifying and pursuing next career steps. But operationalizing it and actually pursuing the career development path that it suggests as a practical and ongoing process, and one that can become an automatic part of a work life, gives it significant practical value.

Where do you start there? I reframe that question with a second one. Where precisely are you now and for all of the positives and negatives that you face, as a starting point that you will have to career build from? I recommend starting this exercise from the perspective of the second of these two questions, and I begin developing an approach here, for thinking about and answering it by offering a set of organizing actionable question-framed points, as follows:

• What, in broad brushstroke terms, would you like to be doing in general terms in five years, or at whatever other timeframe benchmark point that you are using in this exercise? I strongly recommend that you start this exercise without explicit consideration of the precise details there, and in general terms and for a simple reason. Precise more narrowly focusing goal details, if included too early and if focused on too restrictively, carry more implicit and unconsidered assumptions than they do direct and usable value. They can serve more as blinders than anything else, foreclosing the new and novel from your consideration. They can close off doors and path-forward options and opportunities, before you can even become aware of them – and even if they would be best possibilities for you to consider and even actively work towards. So start this process in general terms and only focus in on the details of your overall goal in this as you build a framework for selecting and adding in the right ones, and realistically for you and your needs.
• Now start assembling two positive details lists: a list of the skills and assets and other positives that you have and can demonstrate now, and a list of what you would most likely have to further develop or add to your current toolset if you were to reach your still-generally stated next big career step goal. Note that this can include new technical skills or certifications, or expanded experience using skills that might become more important for you. But this can mean working on and refining your communications and other “soft” skills too, and it can means you’re strategically networking and reaching out for information and insight that might, among other things help you bring all of this into focus where you can start adding in the right details.
• Now do this same thing from the opposite perspective and list the issues that you face and the challenges that you face that might hold you back from reaching your next-and-beyond goals. Note that I added issues such as technical and other workplace performance skills in the positive-side lists. These assumed-likely next-step requirements belong there if they can be made attainable and certainly if you do not set your assumptions there in stone and remain open to reconsideration for what you would include there. This more negative-side list is as much a matter of thinking through wider life issue considerations than anything else, and about looking for contexts and issues from your own and your family’s lives that might create barriers or challenges as you move forward and as you seek to do so in your work life and career path.
• An obvious possibility there might arise if you are married or have a life partner, and a possible next big step career move that you might work towards, would require relocating and to a new workplace and a new home community that is a significant distance from where you are now. How would this impact on your overall life and how would it impact on your immediate family and certainly where they would have to make this move too?
• Let me point out and challenge some assumptions that I just made in the above three bullet points. First of all, non-work life issues can enter into this as positives too. If a possible relocation, for example, can be seen as a negative for its potentially adverse impact on a career developer and their immediate family, relocations can also be positives as well. Sometimes, for example, both a husband and wife can benefit from a same relocation possibility with greater opportunity for better jobs if they make a same specific move together. And technical and other workplace skills and experience issues can be real negatives too, and particularly if a would-be career developer has a work history that could be seen as type casting them in a negative way – and they really need to reframe themselves with new skills to get out from under the weight of that.
• This brings me to a crucial point. Potentially positive points can be perceived as negatives and by hiring managers and other next step career gatekeepers if they are not addressed and presented effectively, and possible negative ones can reframed as more career-neutral, if not as overt positives if they are so addressed and presented and built from.
• Simultaneously with looking at yourself and at what you have done and can do, and at what you have to learn and do moving forward,
• You have to actively look outward and at what is needed and where, and by what types of at least potentially hiring businesses. And you have to look for emerging trends and shifts in that, where some skills are becoming less and less important and less and less in demand in new hires, and others are emerging or ramping up in importance.
• Let’s consider the dynamics of this. Just considering more technical hands-on skills for the moment here, the newest of the new in technical skills, and at least basic experience effectively using the tools that they would be deployed through, are going to start out only appealing to more pioneer and early adaptor hiring managers and their businesses. As a new computer language or other technology-based skill proves itself, a wider range of businesses and their hiring managers are going to start looking for and even demanding it from their new hires and I add from their current employees too. So a peak market demand for new, in skills and experience can and usually does arrive only as a newer hands-on skill and the technology it connects to have diffused out in employee marketplace acceptance, to be positively appreciated by more middle-stage adaptors, if you view this along a more standard innovation acceptance and adaptation curve. Timing is important here, and for any career development planning. And the demand for both skills and experience, to complicate this, means middle-stage hiring managers requiring in many cases, new hire employees who began using a new technology and mastering it, before they would have ever considered hiring for it themselves.
• Yes, I set that up in this discussion as something of a catch-22 and intentionally so. Planning and preparing for career advancement in a rapidly changing and evolving technology-driven industry usually means looking ahead and preparing for jobs that do not exist yet, except as still just fringe opportunities, but with skills that you are convinced will become more mainstreamed and in wider demand. And this can mean learning and finding opportunity to learn what you hope will become the next more widely accepted “must have” before it gets there so you can be one of the few with both the skills and the experience in them to be in peak demand and with all of the career development and advancement opportunities that this can create.

I am going to continue this narrative and its Point 5 discussion in a next series installment where I will more fully consider the issues of refining and fine tuning, and more fundamentally resetting your plans as you proceed. And I will discuss step by step implementation of this too. And I note here in anticipation of that, that networking with a real career development focus can be crucially important in all of that, so you can be as informed as possible about what is currently available and wanted and what is trending and emerging, and so others who you need to favorably reach out to can be more aware of you and what you offer too. I stress the importance of identifying and networking to the “right others” there, noting that this is most likely going to mean reaching outside of your known and familiar networking circle, and where you cannot necessarily start out knowing in advance who you have to meet and connect with or who specifically could best help you to network to them.

It should be noted that I wrote this posting in terms of rapidly changing industries and in terms of employment and career advancement in the face of markets that demand new and better and all of the time. I will also discuss the sometimes all too comfortable trap of “established and settled” jobs and job descriptions, as they can lead people into the traps of obsolescence and the human employment dead end of automation. I will also discuss the role of outsourcing and even to businesses multiple time zones away for established jobs that cease to be considered essential elements of an employer’s core business. I will at least begin to discuss this in my next series installment too. Then after considering and discussing all of that, I am going to consider an emerging challenge that many of us now face and certainly in countries such as the United States and in the West in general: non-compete agreements as they are increasingly becoming common hiring requirements and by more and more types of employers and for more and more types and levels of jobs and work positions.

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 6: learning from the experience of others 3

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on June 11, 2017

This is my sixth 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 1-5.)

I began discussing mentoring in this series from the recipient, mentee side of the table (see Part 5.) And I focused there on finding the right people to seek out and connect with as sources of information and insight, and on best practices for doing so.

• Mentoring can serve as a powerful tool for helping cultivate the skills, strengths and potential of those who could do better at their jobs, and further in their longer-term careers too.
• But this can only work if it is approached and carried out in ways that are respectful of the needs of all concerned, and of their time and effort commitments.

I delved into this from the mentee perspective as a key element to my Part 5 discussion. And I turn here to consider these best practices considerations from the mentor side of the table.

I acknowledged in Part 5 that I have made a consistent practice of seeking out others who I can learn from, and in all directions in the organizations that I have worked with, and certainly when working with new clients as a consultant and striving to get up to speed on their issues and challenges, and in learning my way through their systems of resources and their corporate cultures in place. At the same time I have always actively sought out opportunity to help others in this way too, and both through networking and as a mentor (see Consultant and Mentor – bridging the contradiction for a posting related to mentoring in a specifically consulting-oriented context.) Focusing on that side to this set of opportunities, I see mentoring as a means of helping people with unrealized potential to do better in the jobs that they already hold so they can more fully succeed there. And I see mentoring as a valuable resource in helping prepare people with real potential for their next career steps too, and in better understanding what their best-for-them career goals might even be.

I wrote in Part 5 of how mentees can find great mentors and great sources of knowledge and insight from essentially any direction in an organization. But to simplify this posting, I will write it in terms of top-down mentoring as is more commonly considered. And I simply note here that most all of what I would offer here, applies in other mentor/mentee relationships too, and particularly when a more collegial relationship develops there, and not a more strictly superior/subordinate one, which tends to limit candor and mentoring effectiveness anyway.

Where does mentoring per se fit into the picture for a manager in a business? How does this fit into their here-and-now job and into their own career advancement? That depends on the corporate culture in place as much as it does on anything else, with more collaborative cultures valuing mentoring more positively than a more strictly competitive one would. But assuming at least some business process and business culture support for collaborative, positive support – which in essence can be seen as supporting enlightened self-interest as much as anything else, I would propose the following as holding the greatest value for a manager as they seek to rise through the ranks and up the table of organization:

• Specific hands-on technical skills offer the greatest value for hands-on workers but hold progressively less such value as you reach higher levels of management authority. And as part of that shift in priorities, the higher up a chain of command you go, the higher the percentage of people who you will find yourself supervising and managing, directly and indirectly through others, who have and use specific skills that you do not have too. Flipping that around to emphasize this point, the higher up you go in a management system, the more people will find themselves working under you there who will have expertise and experience that you do not share and that you never will have, and that you might understand for results achieved, but that you will not know the details as to how those results were achieved.
• Interpersonal and communications skills become progressively more and more important as you organize and coordinate larger and more skills-sets varied tasks and projects and as you find yourself responsible for larger and more varies ranges of them.
• And helping the perhaps many people under you in your area of the table of organization to perform better, and to live up to their fuller potential while doing so, can become a defining point of consideration when you yourself are up for performance review, and when you are up for possible further career advancement yourself. This is where support of more general employee training and related staff enrichment opportunities enter this narrative, and this is where mentoring can too, and particularly when it is offered to employees and more junior managers who genuinely show promise and without any ulterior bias added into that selection process.
• A concern on the part of potential mentors, of a perception of possible bias in who they actively mentor and who they do not, probably deters more people who could help others in this way than any other possible confounding issues faced here. But it is possible to build this type of support into a business and in its business practices and in its corporate culture too and it is possible to build a mentoring culture into a business, and as a source of its defining positive value as a place to work.

I assume in what follows that mentoring per se is seen as at least something of a positive, and that this includes it’s not having been turned into a “favoritism minefield.” How can a prospective mentor find the right people to help train and guide in this way? Two possible avenues come immediately to mind here, that I will explore for their complexities:

• Performance review findings, where that includes both pertinent technical skills and work performance findings, and communications and interpersonal skills evaluations.
• And this selection process of necessity, and certainly in this context, should also consider enthusiasm for the business and for what can be done there, and at least something of a consideration of interpersonal fit, between potential mentor and mentee. If everything else is there, but a potential mentor and mentee cannot seem to find common ground for working together, this is not going to work out.
• And self-selection, and on the part of mentees in particular. An employee who asks really good questions and who actively seeks out the information and insight that they need to go beyond their current day-to-day routine and do more: that is a good sign. And employees at whatever level on the table of organization who seek out special projects and opportunities to stretch and expand their skills and the range over which they apply them, and who actively seek out opportunity to help address genuine otherwise-unmet needs, are good candidates here too.

Managers and senior managers in a mentoring business culture can become eligible, or at least more visibly so for advancement through mentoring and particularly when the people they so help, benefit from this and prove that from their own work performance and their own professional growth. And mentoring and supervising at that level can serve as a gateway into management for non-managerial employees who seek to career advance into management too. Mentoring, after all, is in large part a matter of communications and interpersonal skills – some of the very skills that become so important in management per se, along with capabilities in delegating both tasks and responsibilities, and authority to match the level of responsibility so conferred, and capacity to see and understand work done and goals worked towards from a bigger picture perspective than would be called for in immediately here-and-now hands-on work.

Let me conclude this posting with a crucially important, if basic and even elementary observation: An effective mentor learns at least as much as anyone they would help train and advise and for several reasons. First, mentoring, and I add teaching in general force you to look at and reconsider the knowledge and skills that you would share, with new fresh eyes. This can in effect force you to reorganize and consolidate what you know, thinking through gaps and possible inconsistencies in that. It can force you to really see and examine your own automatic assumptions and preconceptions. It can leave you more solidly grounded where your might have been thinking and operating more in terms of special case rules – but where you could generalize to more widely applicable general understandings. And mentoring builds bridges, and for networking and for simply working with those around you with greater awareness and understanding of your human context.

• I write this posting in particular, for those who have never mentored but who have something to offer – and something to gain from doing so. Never feel threatened by the people around you who seek to excel and who seek out the knowledge and insight and tools they would need to do so. Cultivate the best in others and strive to help them reach their own best potentials, and strive to become the best that you can achieve too, and regardless of your title or level of organizational authority. And I offer this as a career point that goes way beyond the issues of mentoring and of seeking out or serving as a mentor.

I have been developing this series according to an outline that I first offered in its Part 1. And I will continue following that same basic pattern in my next installment, where I will address that posting’s Point 5, as offered in its principle to-address list:

• Career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis, and thinking and planning beyond the scope of this list’s Point 2 (e.g. 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, as discussed in Part 3.)

And I will proceed from there to discuss the rest of the more general, foundational issues of career planning and execution as noted in that first series installment. Then, in anticipation of further discussion to come, I will go beyond the scope outlined in Part 1, to consider the impact of change, and of automation in particular as that will come to redefine what employment and employability are in this 21st century. And the issues that this transformation raise, are among the most important that we as humanity will face in the years and decades to come. But before delving into that, I will continue building a foundation for its discussion here, as first outlined in Part 1.

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 5: learning from the experience of others 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 30, 2017

This is my fifth 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 1-4.)

I began a more general, overall discussion about learning from others in work and career planning in Part 4 of this series, where I focused on networking more effectively for information and insight that you can apply to your own circumstance and in your own planning. Then at the end of that more focused line of discussion, I said that I would turn here to consider:

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

I have written about mentoring on a number of occasions in the course of writing this blog. So I begin this posting as a continuation of that line of discussion, by offering some background resources of relevance to it:

Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation – part 7 and building a mentoring network,
From Peer to Supervisor – Part 9: training and mentoring others,
Moving into Middle Management – Part 8: leading by example, mentoring and advocacy,
Consultant and Mentor – bridging the contradiction and
Career Changes, Career Transitions 16: mentors and mentoring .

I chose those postings to highlight here, because they touch upon the issues of mentors and mentoring from both the mentee and the mentor side of the table, and because they indicate how a mentoring relationship can fruitfully arise from unexpected directions – and certainly if you only think of this in terms of higher up towards lower down on the formal table of organization.

Let me begin this posting and its contribution to that narrative by offering some general organizing comments and observations:

• Mentoring and cultivating the collaborations that it can create are all about building relationships.
• The fact and opinion finding exercises that I touched upon in Part 4 of this series, in a networking context are also all about building relationships as that is how real, sustainable networking arises too.
• But in a Part 4 context, that information gathering side to networking is all about finding specific pieces of information and types of it, and in a timely manner. Mentoring is more open-ended for this and it can be at least as much about finding out what you do not even know to ask about as it can be about finding specific here-and-now answers to immediately pressing questions.
• And to return to a key word offered in the first of these bullet points, a sustaining and sustainable mentoring relationship develops as a true collaboration.
• And to pick up on one more at-least apparent point made above: an assumption actually, mentoring and even the best mentoring is not always carried out from “higher up towards lower down on the formal table of organization.” The most effective mentoring can come from essentially any direction in that regard.

Consider for example a new manager, straight out of business school who secures a position with a new company and in what to them is a new industry – and they know this. The supervising manager who they report to has made it clear that they are going to be available to help answer specific questions (and according to a more Part 4, networking approach.) But they have made it just as clear that they want to see what this new hire can do and can learn on their own and without requiring special attention from higher up on the table of organization; this is in fact an apparent test issue for their new hires as they go through their first 90 days probationary-hire periods (see my series: Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 73-88.)

Who would these people best turn to for ongoing and more open ended guidance and advice as they find their way in this new-to-them business and this new-to-them job there and with all of the learning curve challenges that they face?

• One possible source of this type of mentor support might be more experienced and widely respected same-level peers on the table of organization. And if you can find the right ones, who are willing to help you with this and if you do not become too demanding of their time and energy in this, well seasoned peers can be a best possible source of mentors. They, after all face essentially the same table of organization contexts that you do, so they are in a better position to see and understand your world at that business as you would experience it – and the issues that you face and need guidance on too.
• But a second possible source for this type of mentoring might be found lower down on the table of organization, from among the more experienced and I will add wise members of your own staff. These are the people who know both the systems in use and the place and the history of the place and of what has been tried and done and what has and has not worked there. They know who does what and they know their personal issues and communications styles and preferences too. The best of these long-term employees can become veritable walking encyclopedias of expertise into that business and how to succeed in it. And this leads me to a simple, basic question. Who would the people who report to you, seek out for advice if they had questions or if they needed insight that went beyond simply addressing their day-to-day ordinary? Phrased slightly differently, who in your area of this business has become the go-to expert for thinking through and resolving the unexpected and the particularly challenging, and who would know where to turn to throughout the business if you need further insight from other functional areas there too?

In both of these mentor/advisor sourcing circumstances, and particularly in the second of them, if you seek out a mentor, do so with a measure of humility and respect. And the respect side of that includes both acknowledging that the people who you would reach out to here, know things that you do not and that you need to learn. And it also includes recognizing and acknowledging that they have busy schedules and work deadlines too – just as you do.

• If you are in fact turning to long-term employee experts who report to you and either directly or indirectly for ongoing insight and information, you have the option to make that a part of their recognized and even prioritized workload, so you are not putting them in the uncomfortable position of being required to do what for example might be nine hours of work in eight hour work days and even just occasionally.
• This can be done informally, and both for when and how you take from their time in order to gather specific information and insight from them that you need. So for example, you can ask Martha, the accounts manager who has been there 28 years for some of her time, assuring here that her more regularly scheduled work on an established client account that she would be doing then, can wait until the next day if need be. But even then, make use of these resources sparingly and in ways and at times that would work for them too. Accommodate their needs too; meet with them for a more informal if still work-related conversation over lunch if that would make their day easier and if they would be comfortable with that.

I add here as a final thought for this posting, that as a consultant I made a career out of working in new-to-me businesses, and a career out of walking into challenging workplace requirements where I did not necessarily know up-front what were the underlying problems that I was to address, and what were actually just symptoms of them. So I always sought out mentors and advisors who could and would help me to fill in the gaps in what I knew, and who could help me to identify misconceptions in what I was assuming – and perhaps even particularly when they have been based on what I had just been directly told by the executives who hired me there. As I have indicated at least on occasion in this blog, the managers and leaders of a business do not always know themselves, what the real underlying problems are in their organization, and what are more properly just symptoms of them. I have found and cultivated mentors and advisors in all directions on tables of organization, looking primarily for those who would know what I needed to know, and those who would and could share this information with me in a positive collaborative manner. And sometimes the best sources of this type of expertise have come from what in the businesses involved, would be the least expected directions and from very experienced people who were more taken for granted there than anything else.

And with that noted, I repeat a point made at the end of an earlier bullet point here, that I would hope this posting has at least somewhat clarified:

• “The most effective mentoring can come from essentially any direction in that regard.” It really can.

I have primarily been addressing this topic from the mentee side here and will switch to focus more on the mentor side of this in a next series installment. 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 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.

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