Trans­form­ing the ca­reer Per­sonal skills, goals should guide any jour­ney

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

AS a colum­nist and pub­lic speaker, I have spo­ken and writ­ten about ac­count­abil­ity from sev­eral per­spec­tives.

For in­stance, I shared with read­ers that tak­ing per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity means to fo­cus on one’s work and do­ing one’s as­signed work ef­fi­ciently ver­sus “sneak­ing” work time to text friends, keep tabs on your Face­book ac­count or con­tin­u­ally check­ing for per­sonal phone mes­sages.

I’ve also talked about ac­count­abil­ity be­ing a per­sonal value that helps people pri­or­i­tize the where, when, what, why and how of one’s ac­tions and be­hav­iour. And fi­nally, I’ve writ­ten that per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity is some­thing that can and should be learned and prac­tised ev­ery day of your life.

Yet I’m sur­prised people don’t ap­ply the con­cept of per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity to their own ca­reer. Yes, I can see per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity in the early stages of a ca­reer when in­di­vid­u­als se­lect their cour­ses and fo­cus their stud­ies. How­ever, I of­ten hear from in­di­vid­u­als who feel trapped in their cur­rent jobs and feel pow­er­less to do any­thing about it. In­stead of tak­ing per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity, they blame the sit­u­a­tion on a bad boss, poor in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships or merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions. Ev­ery­thing seems to be “out­side” of them­selves and there­fore, out of their con­trol.

Frankly, I re­call ex­pe­ri­enc­ing these same pow­er­less feel­ings in two un­happy work sit­u­a­tions in which I was en­gaged. Yet I re­al­ized the only per­son in charge of my ca­reer was “me,” and, there­fore, I was the one who had to do some­thing about it. And I did. Thus, my over­rid­ing mes­sage is so can you, dear reader. It’s called en­gag­ing in per­sonal trans­for­ma­tion. Yes, in­deed, this is a jour­ney, rather than some­thing that can be rushed. In other words, don’t just quit a job and run to an­other one with­out ex­am­in­ing the rea­sons for your dis­con­tent be­yond those ex­ter­nal fac­tors you are com­plain­ing about. Af­ter all, you may quickly find out the prover­bial say­ing that the “grass is not al­ways so green on the other side of the fence!” is more true than you had imag­ined.

As I in­di­cated, per­sonal and ca­reer trans­for­ma­tion is a jour­ney, so the ques­tion is, where does one start or restart their jour­ney? But, first of all, I want to re­mind you not to fall into the trap of feel­ing guilty about your dis­com­fort­ing sit­u­a­tion. There is noth­ing wrong with ques­tion­ing yourself about your goals and ob­jec­tives and ca­reer path at any stage of life.

To be hon­est, if you asked any of your col­leagues how many ca­reer changes they’ve had, you would be sur­prised. In fact, I think it’s quite rare to­day to have in­di­vid­u­als stay in a sin­gle oc­cu­pa­tion their en­tire lives, and work for a sin­gle em­ployer. So, there is noth­ing to feel guilty about; heck, life changes, cir­cum­stances change and people change, but life goes on.

How­ever, once you un­pack the guilt trip, take time to re­ally as­sess just ex­actly what your dis­com­fort is all about. In­stead of blam­ing a bad boss, take a look at his/her lead­er­ship style ver­sus the work style that best suits you. Yes, you can hold your breath un­til he/she passes, how­ever, it might be some time be­fore you are as­signed a new boss. There are just two things you can do. First you can try to un­der­stand the new boss and their lead­er­ship style and adapt to work­ing with their ap­proach. Or, you can de­ter­mine you may no longer be in the best place to gain job sat­is­fac­tion and seek em­ploy­ment else­where.

Yet, seek­ing em­ploy­ment else­where doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean leav­ing your cur­rent em­ployer. Look for other op­por­tu­ni­ties within your com­pany and per­haps trans­fer to a sim­i­lar role in an­other depart­ment. Check out the pos­si­bil­ity of tak­ing a new po­si­tion in which you will learn new skills. This will ben­e­fit you in the long run.

If none of these op­por­tu­ni­ties is avail­able to you, then you need to start ex­plor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side your cur­rent em­ployer. At this point, you need to re­ally know yourself well or else you may go from the fry­ing pan into the fire, so to speak. So, how do you go about this fright­ful task? And, yes, it can be fright­en­ing, be­cause don’t for­get you are leav­ing a lot of yourself be­hind and start­ing a new ca­reer life.

But once again, I ad­vise tak­ing the slower jour­ney to ca­reer change. That’s be­cause there are many as­pects of ca­reer man­age­ment you need to pay at­ten­tion to. With re­gard to the is­sue of boss re­la­tion­ships, I sug­gested a good look at lead­er­ship/man­age­ment styles and what suits you the best, but that’s just the start of self-anal­y­sis. You also need to ex­am­ine el­e­ments such as per­son­al­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion style and per­sonal val­ues. You need to delve deeply into your psy­che and de­ter­mine what mo­ti­vates you. And fi­nally, you need to ex­am­ine what you are re­ally good at and what you like to do. Once you iden­tify and con­firm these per­sonal ca­reer el­e­ments, then you can be­gin solv­ing the ca­reer puzzle. Let me ex­plain these el­e­ments more thor­oughly.

Per­son­al­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion style: This refers to how you make sense of things and how you in­ter­act and com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers. Per­son­al­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion style greatly im­pact your choice of jobs and where you are best suited to work. For in­stance, if you are the quiet, in­tro­verted type of per­son, then be­ing in large teams where you need to speak up and be ac­tively en­gaged is not com­fort­able. You are best suited to work­ing alone and/or with small teams.

Per­sonal val­ues: Per­sonal val­ues are your core be­liefs; they tell you what you like in life and guide your ev­ery­day be­hav­iour. Your val­ues could in­clude el­e­ments such as am­bi­tion, open­ness, fair­ness, mak­ing a dif­fer­ence by help­ing oth­ers as well as hon­esty and in­tegrity. When per­sonal and work val­ues are the same, you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence job sat­is­fac­tion. When you sense dis­com­fort, it’s of­ten be­cause there is a psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­con­nect be­tween your val­ues and those of your em­ployer.

Per­sonal mo­ti­va­tors: Per­sonal mo­ti­va­tors mo­bi­lize you to take ac­tion and set goals. Mo­ti­va­tors in­clude such things as in­de­pen­dence and au­ton­omy, the mo­ti­va­tion to man­age people or to be a tech­ni­cal ex­pert of some kind. You could be mo­ti­vated by so­cial ser­vice, a spe­cific cause and/or the need for life­work bal­ance. All of these mo­ti­va­tors di­rect you to­ward cer­tain jobs.

Trans­fer­able skills: These are skills that tran­scend a num­ber of jobs and en­able you to stretch your ex­pe­ri­ence and ca­reer goals be­yond one sin­gle oc­cu­pa­tion. Most people fail to re­al­ize they have trans­fer­able skills. Take time to do a skills as­sess­ment. An­a­lyze ev­ery paid/non-paid job, then cat­e­go­rize and clas­sify your skills into three themes. These themes help to cre­ate your iden­tify be­yond a job ti­tle and en­able you to en­vi­sion your skills be­ing ap­plied to dif­fer­ent jobs.

Man­ag­ing your ca­reer is your job and no one else’s. Em­ploy­ers can pro­vide work op­por­tu­ni­ties but it is up to you to make sure your job and ca­reer path best suit your per­son­al­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion style, your per­sonal val­ues and mo­ti­va­tors and your trans­fer­able skills.

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