Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #15 Taking Charge of Your Career

May 12, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 15
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #15 Taking Charge of Your Career
Show Notes Transcript

Do you have a clear career plan? How often do you revisit your direction of travel to see if you are heading where you want to?

Our career is ours along! Even if we work in an organisation, it’s still up to us to make sure we are having the career we choose, and not one chosen for us by our organisations. 

In our busy lives, it can be easy to put off doing any thinking or planning for our career. And yet, unless we do, it can head in directions we may not choose for ourselves. 

In this practical workshop Jean shares her 3 steps to career planning.

She will share tools and techniques to help you have an ongoing career reflection and planning process.

If you are interested to go in this journey in a group our Finding your Purpose, Planning your Career group coaching programme runs at regular intervals. You can find out more information and sign up here.

Looking to work with a coach. You can find Jean here.

Experience an Introduction to our Coach Training Programmes with our Free Taster Course:

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Hi everyone. And welcome to making sense of work. For nearly 30 years in my role as a coach, I've been helping people to think about their careers and to help them plan the next stages. In this episode, I'm going to share with you some of the questions I work with, both in my individual coaching and on our finding your purpose, planning your career course. This episode is focusing really on career and thinking about your career journey. And if you're more interested in thinking about how you get to the core of your purpose, you can listen to episode one of this podcast. We hope that our careers are going to be reasonably long for some of us will work for 30 years and some of us may work 50 years or even more. We'll have different relationships to our careers. Some of us will hold our career as being very central to how we see ourselves and how our identity is. And that that's certainly true for me, for others. It will be much more about how can I make sure that my work fits alongside the. Aspects of my life, but regardless of how we see this idea, I believe it's good for us to do a regular kind of stock take or look back or reflect on our career to see where are we, how is it going? Is it going to plan? And what can I do to make sure that I'm on track or even get back on track? If I feel like I'm not there. I think that every career also has seasons there's times in our career or our life. We're in a kind of full steam ahead. We're working at full capacity and we're really happy at that. And other times where we need to take our foot off the gas, where we need to be moving a bit slow. And where are you right now, today? Are you in that driving mode or are you enjoying the passenger seat for awhile? These seasons may or may not be connected to our age or our stage in life. I know people who. For the early parts of their career were raising children and didn't have so much energy and time. And then in their late fifties suddenly brought all of their energy and focus to their career. I know other people who weren't really interested in having a career in their twenties and came to it a bit later on, of course there are others who for their twenties to their fifties. That's all their career is about. So what's happening in our career may or may not be connected to age. It may or may not be connected to what's going on in the rest of our lives. Some new parents find new energy for their career. Some new parents want to take the opportunity to go at a slower speed wherever we are. Um, taking time to stop and check. What's good for us. What's best for us in our lives at the moment, I think is a key to our happiness and fulfillment at work. It's also really important for us to remember that this is our career. It belongs to us. We're the ones living at the ones enjoying it, or the ones not enjoying it. And as you think about this, it's good to become aware of all the messages and the stories that you've taken. About what a good career looks like, what you should be doing. And it's really important to listen to yourself, even if we're in a very successful corporate career that we've proactively chosen. Sometimes it's good to step back from that and say, is this what I really want now? Is this what I want to carry on doing? Or am I internalizing. Because I've had this type of career. So now I need to keep going. I remember when I first left teaching was a very long time ago. A few people said to me, but you know, why are you doing that? It's a good career opportunity. It's a good, um, law, lifelong way of earning a living. And I knew that teaching small children wasn't for me anymore, and I needed to make that choice to make that choice for me. In recent years, much more so than when I made that choice, it feels like the choices have become more complicated. We certainly, when I was younger, I saw that I would have one career and then I would move from that career into an organization. But we've now got the idea of. Self-employment or entrepreneurship, and we've almost idealized this as being what we should be doing. The idea of being an entrepreneur or running your own business is seen as being very glamorous and increasingly so, and the idea perhaps of having a long corporate career or a long career working in a family business has got somehow some less attraction, but this is a reality. Story that's being played out in society and may not resonate with you at all for you working for the same employer or your life, maybe what's best for you, but for somebody else, it may be that they're not wanting to do that. And they want to go out on their own. But whatever we choose is good for us to remember that this is our career and that whatever we've chosen, we'll have good times and hard times, easy times and a tough slog. So we somehow need to distill all of that information to work out what's right for us. And to not idealize a route that may not be the right one for us. So even a long corporate career might take many forms. Some people in a long corporate career will stay in the same firm. Others will move employers every two years and get a lot of satisfaction for that. Some will say, oh, I've done that corporate work and I'm going to go off and do something else. And then they'll go back to a corporate job and say, you know, That was a good time out, but I'm coming back. It's all part of creating our own career journey and seeing that it doesn't have to be in a straight line. So my point is that this process of doing some career planning and some career thinking is really about you looking and reflecting on what's best for you now, and maybe for the next five years. And that might be very different from what you thought five years ago, and it might be very different from what will happen in five years, but for now, what will help you to feel fulfilled, to earn the money you need and to enjoy the life you want, what will help you to express your values to help you live in your strengths and to help you express the experience you have. As I've already said most careers will hit setbacks and roadblocks. It might be a boss we don't get on with or an organization that doesn't match our values or a role that doesn't fit us. I once asked a panel of very senior leaders. What, if any setbacks are they experienced? And each of them told a story which involved actually having to take a step down in order to move where they were going or a sideways step. And in one case, even to leave organizations for awhile, careers are not linear. Come without hardship. And so it's important to see that as part of the journey, it's important that we take that kind of long view. And then if we take a long view, it may be easier for us to make decisions about what's right for us. Next, we can stand the good times and the bad is if we can see it as part of a full and long career. So how do we go about thinking about this? This isn't really very scientific. What I'm going to suggest. I have a three stage process. It starts with looking back, looking at where we are now and then looking at where we want to go. And then after you've done this, it's a planning and execution job, but I think that a mess, we do these three activities that can be quite hard to move straight into execution. They don't have to be done in any particular order, but the purpose is to help use, to get a better understanding of yourself and what will be best for. In your career journey. And looking back, we're mining for information. We're looking at our story so far. When will we happiest? When were we in our flow? When will we enjoying life and work? And we move as struggling and looking at where we are now, we're asking, what's working. What's not working. How am I values being expressed? What's going on in my current workplace, that's making me happy or making me want to stay in bed in the morning. And then of course, looking to the future, that might be for most of us, I think five years max, but some of you may be saying, no, I want a 20 year plan and work. I'm going to go off in that direction. There are a number of tools and questions that we can use to help us with each of these stages. And I'm going to share this with you in a little bit more depth. So, as I said earlier, I don't think these have to be done in any particular order. I'm going to go through them in the sort of backwards present future piece, but you could do them in any order you choose. But let me start with the one of where have I come from and what does that tell. It might seem a bit strange to you to look back, to think about looking back, but I really see a believe and have experienced that. Looking back gives really strong clues about ourselves, about what we value, what we enjoy, what we've expressed, but also clues about the things that leave us most unhappy or leave us feeling stagnant or stuck. So looking back is helpful. Even if we're moving into a new season of work, the close the past can be really helpful for us as a personal example for this. When I look back over my career, particularly in the first 20 years, I see that I really loved working with groups. And as a facilitator, I didn't do much one-to-one work at that stage of my career. But as my career has gone on, I'm much more focused on coaching and still teaching, but actually I do less facilitation. So when I look back, it gives me poses to what made me happy. What were the skills I was using, the essence is the same, but that doesn't mean I have to take all of that into the future. The exercise that best supports this process is an exercise called the career. And I, many of you will have come across it. Um, it's very tried and tested in our finding your purpose, planning your career. Group coaching program. We actually devote an entire workshop to this exercise because it can be so powerful. So you too can do this. You take a piece of paper, maybe turn it so that it's landscape and draw a line across the middle. You want to think that above that line are your career highs or your life highs? Dark times when things were going well and below the line. The times when things were not going so well and maybe in career or life, and you start to plot different jobs that you did, different organizations you worked in, you can also start from before work. If you want to, you can talk about university. Some people start from birth and look at how their family experiences and their childhood experiences impacted their work and life and career. So you create a sort of chronological map of highs and lows or things that were in the middle and you then begin to look into each of those and think, what was it that made it a high or what was it that made it a low, I've got a, a funny little story on my career line, which is that when I was at school, I was about 16. I had a physics teacher. Um, in my all girls school who told us that girls weren't really suited to physics now, I was actually quite good at physics and I, uh, took a fin. So there's, and ended up leading a delegation to the headmistress to complain about this teacher. And, um, I wasn't actually the first I discovered it and I certainly wasn't the last and he didn't teach there forever. Let's just say. But this story is relevant because I look on it as an expression of a value. I have about both leadership and about women's careers. And I still do quite a lot of work working with women about helping them in their careers, either in organizations or on a one off. With individuals. And if I look back over my career, I see this theme of supporting women's careers, running all the way through, right from that first expression of when I was 16. So as, as I've described, when you've plotted each role or each event, you really want to sit in those and look, how did that high, help me express my values and strengths, or how did that low relate to my values and strengths? Would I go back and do any of these again? Or is it a hell? No. What would the. Things that help me demonstrate strengths or what did I gain from that, that I've took taken into the future. And you can begin then I think to see themes and patterns and start to make sense of those themes and patterns. So I look back and think that even though I'm expressing myself slightly differently, I still work in people. I still work in individual development. It's still the same themes. This is a wonderful exercise to do with a friend or a peer, and to maybe take a couple of hours out of your day, go and have a long lunch and share your career line with each other and ask for insights that you may not see my experience of doing this in groups. As in a coaching situation is that often we can see patterns in other people's lines that they're not seeing themselves. And that can be very helpful in helping to plot the future. Stage two is about doing a stock take of where am I now? And what's that telling me? At looking at where we are now, we're really asking that question. What's working and what's not working again, back to values. How are they being expressed through my work or not? What are my motivation levels? Am I stimulated or bored? What's my challenge level. Like, do I enjoy the organization I'm working in? Um, or am I loving being self-employed. What is it that gets me out of bed in the morning. And what makes me want to put my head back under the covers? I had a really live example in preparing for this podcast today. I love to teach and I often teach in the evenings on our coaching program, but I do find it very hard to get up in the morning after I've been working in the. And yet I found myself at my desk preparing for the us at 6:50 AM after I'd been running a group the night before. And it's because I woke up thinking about doing this. I knew I needed to do it. And I was thinking about it. I was kind of stimulated by it and keen to get going. And I think this is a good sign. So this is an example for me of something that's working in my daily life. Something I'm enjoying. I'm getting energy from it. I'm hoping I'm adding value to other people. And that's a part of the way I think of looking at what's working now, when we wake up in the mornings, what are we looking forward to in our working lives? And what are we thinking, oh, I don't want to do that. Are we waking up and thinking I've got some creativity, I've got some energy for this or are we waking up thinking, oh, I'm just going to put that off. I don't want that. And quite connected to that is that you can do an exercise. Let's looking at your best day and worst day. You can look back over the last six months and ask what was the best day I had recently and then really decode it. What was I doing? Who was I working with? And what, what was it that made it such a good day? Maybe I was about achievements. Maybe it was about the people and the same, do a worst day exercise, go back and look and say, what was it about that day that really wasn't working, that wasn't working for me. I've already talked quite a lot about values. And I really think that they sit right at the heart of us. Having a fulfilling career is making sure that our values are aligned with our working life. And if you're beginning to think, huh? I'm not sure whether my current state is where I want it to be. You can do a values exercise. You can find lots of values lists on the internet and look at those and see. How would I find the top five values? And how can I make sure that I'm either expressing those in my day to day life now? Or how can I take them into the future? There are lots of other things that you can look at then your current life what's working in the current organization that you're in. How does that work? Have you got the right balance between work and personal life? And that really, as I said earlier, depends on where you are in your life stage. You can maybe check whether you've got enough challenge or not. We know that it's good for us. Some challenge in order to not be stressed, too little challenge actually causes us stress. I've had a few clients have come to me because they've lost their motivation. Not really because they wanted to quit, but because they needed a new, big challenge. So lethargy in our role doesn't necessarily mean were needing to move. It may just mean that we need something else. These are a few examples of ways that you can connect with your current role. Stage three is about looking at the future. It's about where do you want to go? Some of you will actually start with this phase. You'll be more naturally drawn to looking at the future first, before you do the other two processes, I was, will want to look back and at the present before you do it, but now's the time to dream. It's about asking yourself questions of what will give me joy. What will help me learn? Where will I be fulfilled and how can I do that? Yeah, it may be asking yourself questions. Like how would you define a good career? Is it a career that's lots of fun or where you're learning or D is a good career for you? One that enables you to spend lots of time with your family, working out your definition of what a good career is for you at the moment can really help you to plan. Another way that you can do this. As you can write a letter from your future self, you could write a letter for your retirement party and describe your career, look back on it. What did you achieve? What impact did you have on the world, on the people you work with? What works, satisfied you the most? What was it that you were proud of as you come to your retirement that you've done? Of course, it may be that you choose not to retire and so still do it, but do it with a, taking a future, looking backwards, focus. Another way of creating the future. So think about your ideal day. This is something I revisit quite a lot in my own life. What would an ideal day look like for you? What are the activities that you would have in that ideal day, in an ideal working day? How long would it be? What types of work would you do? Where would you be working those kinds of things? You can also find your Ikigai, ikigai is, a Japanese phrase that can be translated to your reason for being, and this process. Asks 4 key questions that you can use to explore. I don't have time to go into those questions for day, maybe for another podcast, but you can certainly look at this concept of looking for your Ikigai we do cover this in much more depth in our programs or one-to-one coaching. If you are in an organizational role, your career plan may be about simply looking at the next couple of roles you want to take. It may be that you know, that you want your boss's job, or you want to take a sideways move and then move into a different role. It's important, I think, to identify those different roles so that you can start to plan to think about how do I get the experience? How do I work with. What, who the people are, who all need to influence. So getting clear about your direction of travel in the organization can also be very helpful asking that question. Where do I want to go? What are the next roles? And it may be quite radical. We have a guest coming up on the podcast who switched from corporate to being an artist. And so this process is really about helping you to think clearly about your future, your direction of travel and looking at what's right for you. And when you've gone through all of these stages, then it's down to good old fashion action planning. It's a gap analysis, identifying the gap between where you want to be and where you are now, and then doing a plan and seeing what you can do. In order to achieve that plan. As I said, I've worked with people who have got a 30 year career plan. They know where they're going to be in 30 years. That's this plan. And for some of us, it's about the next couple of years or the next five years, but whatever our time span is, it's really good to take the time to think it's. One thing I would suggest as we draw to a close is to book a monthly date with yourself. Go to a coffee shop or go for a walk and just reflect on your career. Look back. Look forward, look at where you are now and see whether you're on track with where you want to be. It can feel really hard to take the time out for ourselves to do this, but unless we do, we may end up just stumbling from one stage to the next, without being more intentional about our life and our relationship to our work. We do a lot more on this process in our finding your purpose, planning, your career group coaching program, it runs at regular intervals. And if you're interested in this, you'll be able to see the link in the show notes, but I want to really wish you well in creating a career that fits well for you, that helps you express yourself and helps you to have a fulfilling work life.