Category Archives: Career Stories

Where Will You Be in Five Years?

imagesWhat do you say when you’re asked that ever recurring and somewhat annoying, question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” We’ve come to expect it at interview, but what if it comes up in conversation at a networking event or a cocktail party?

It can be difficult in today’s economy to know where you’re going to be in the next five months let alone the next five years and even if you do know, it’s a challenge to communicate your career goal and if it comes up in a social setting, it’s up there in the annoying category of questions along with ‘What do you do?’ Is our career really defining us? And is that such a bad thing anyway? I suppose not if it’s deemed to be interesting but what if you find your work uninspiring and you’re not motivated to talk about it.

And just how honest can you be? What if your 5 year plan is to be semi-retired and living in the south of France with a little consultancy work to keep your hand in and your real goal is to spend the next five years building a good network of contacts to facilitate this. Hmmm perhaps it might not be such a good idea being completely honest in this instance or you might be suspected of intending to run off with the company clients.

However all that said, sometimes it does pay to be honest. For example take a person working in the operations department of an Investment Bank, she’s finding the work completely mundane and goes nowhere to fulfil her creative spirit. Does she share this at appraisal time?

This did actually happen to a client and she choose to share in the knowledge that it could be the beginning of the end in terms of her career– but no, her faith in mankind was completely redeemed, if not blown out of the water ,when her manager suggested setting up a meeting with the head of Marketing and long story short she’s now planning a side step within her organisation and they’re even funding some of her training.

I expect now more than ever, organisations want to keep their good people and giving them what they want will instil loyalty – the old adage of by giving you’ll receive eh! It’s also worth noting, if you are considering a change into something new and you can effect that change within an organisation where you’re known and respected, its a lot easier than getting your foot in another door. And the moral of the story, well I guess honesty can be rewarded and it may even be the best policy!

Evolving Careers Players can help you manage and develop your career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

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Overcoming Significant Challenges

imagesJason worked in Events, a job which he really loved and he was also a drummer in a band which fulfilled his passion in music. He was married with two young daughters and life was pretty good. That was until Jason caught what he thought was the flu, he had a lot of aches and pains and was feeling really run down. Within a short time he realised that something was seriously wrong and to his complete disbelief and horror he discovered his symptoms were actually that of gangrene and this spread rapidly, sadly causing the need to have both his legs amputated from the knee down. As you can appreciate the road to recovery was long and hard from both a physical and emotional perspective for Jason and his wife.

Jason’s illness had a devastating effect on his life and it also meant he could no longer work in his chosen field of Events, this was because he could no longer cope with the physical element of setting up events which was a major part of his role and what he enjoyed. He also had to give up his drumming because he needed a sense of rhythm in his foot tapping to ‘feel the music’ and he no longer had that.

Yet when I met Jason, he was one of the most positive and upbeat people I’d ever met. I also met his wife Tina and she told me that while they had been through a challenging time she felt they’d come through the other side and were ready to take on life with renewed strength and vitality. They were grateful for all the good things they had in their life, the essence of which was a strong family unit – Jason, Tina and their two daughters.

By the time I’d met Jason he’d had robotic limb replacement  and he was quite agile and maintained good health and fitness. He had a love of the outdoors and a renewed zest for life and spent as much time as he could with his wife and daughters in the wonderful parks of London, many of which were on his doorstep. He had plenty of time on his hands and was determined to make the most of it and indeed make up for the time he’d lost during his illness.

He was considering his next career and although uncertain initially what this would actually be, he began to think of it in terms of what he loved doing and what was important to him. He did a lot of his thinking when he was in the park, spending time with his wife, playing with his girls or just walking in nature maintaining his fitness routine. He got to know the people working in the park and talked to them about their careers. These conversations led him to become a volunteer with responsibility for maintaining the upkeep of the park. Although he had no specific experience in doing this, he quickly grew to love what he was doing and became more and more interested in the horticultural side of things.

One of the park horticulturalists noticed Jason’s natural ability in the work he was doing and spoke to him about the internship programme they ran each year and suggested he apply for it. This is exactly was Jason did and he was successful in securing a place on the programme and is now developing his new career in horticulture.

Jason’s story for me has to be the most significant in overcoming the challenge of what life threw at him, coming through this with greater strength and a determination to move on in all areas of his life and develop a new career in line with what he enjoyed doing that also fitted in with his values and that of his family.

*Published with client permission. Names have been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you manage, develop, and transition your career during challenging times. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. we devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Why? A Simple but Profound Question

imagesDanny works in the Hotel and Leisure Industry, he’s quite an easy going person, gets on well with people and is a good team player. Some time ago a woman, let‘s call her Kate, joined his team and from the very beginning she just didn’t gel with Danny. It was actually more than not gelling, she seemed to go out of her way to be uncooperative, was openly critical of any ideas Danny put forward at meetings, he found her quite disrespectful and difficult to work with.

He tried to get on with his work by interacting with her as little as he needed to, but it was a small team and being the hotel industry he spent long hours in his job, which meant long hours in her company. It soon came to a head and he knew he had to do something about it .

One day when they were alone, he asked her ‘Why?’ Kate stopped what she was doing and from a very obvious place of irritation, she asked ‘what do you mean why? Why what’? Danny answered ‘’why do you behave in the way you do towards me?’ ‘What are you talking about’ she snapped. Danny said ‘’you always seem critical towards my ideas, I get a sense you’re irritated by me, as you seem to be now, I’m not sure if it’s something I’ve done or said, but it would help to know because  then perhaps we could find a way to work together, our work means we have to spend a lot of time in each others company and I think it’s important we try to make this work, not just for us, but for the morale of the team.’

Now Kate didn’t suddenly open up her heart to Danny, she didn’t offer an explanation or apologise for her behaviour, she actually didn’t say anything, maybe she didn’t know what to say, who knows. Even so Danny was glad he’d addressed the matter, it was a brief interaction and he felt he’d handled it in a professional way and more importantly he got it out in the open by letting her know her behaviour was unacceptable to him and that he was willing to find a way to work together.

Now although Kate didn’t respond initially to Danny, her behaviour towards him did change, she wasn’t so critical of his ideas, they began to work together in a more cooperative way and while I don’t think they’ll ever be best friends they’re actually getting on ok.

The situation Danny found himself in is not so unusual and it’s one I hear in some shape or form time and time again in my conversations with clients and with friends. Some people will think: well I’ll put up with this person, situation while I’m in work and then I can put it out of my mind once I’m outside of work. The thing is we spend so much time in our work that’s not always possible or indeed good for our health and well-being.

Working with someone who has a de-motivating impact on an individual or team can ruin morale and its important not to let a bad situation fester. I think by asking the simple question ‘Why’ we can open up an awareness to there being a problem and get the message across that’s it not acceptable and something needs to change. All of this from one question is quite powerful I think.

*Published with client permission. Names have been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help develop better working relationships. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Improvisation Career Change and Hiking in the Alps

FearDuring an improvisation workshop one of the exercises was for the group to work in pairs and to tell a story by each saying one word at a time. They did this by moving around the room and they began to step into the story and played out the actions and emotions as the story unfolded. The instruction was to go with it even if it took them to a scary place and to then go beyond that and experience where it took them from there. Every single pairing ended up dying and then coming back to life in a different capacity, and that was where their stories became even more interesting and great fun as they began to explore unknown quantities in respect of the pathways ahead of them as they unfolded in the moment.

I find so many parallels in corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios and real-time work-based scenarios from career development and management through to career change and transition. The techniques, methods, and structure of performing arts, which are at the core of our work are significant in the always evolving world of career learning and development.

I have conversations all the time with people who have reached a scary place in their career and they are struggling to go beyond that and this reminds me of a Mark Twain quote “courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear”. Metaphorically speaking the courage needed to go beyond that barrier of fear to the other side of your career life can be compared to the fear felt before dying and crossing over to the other side or spiritual world.

Richard’s story is one of many in terms of clients who have come to this place in their career. Richard was a language teacher, his first language was English and he was fluent in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. His whole career had been within private schools teaching young adults, and while he had enjoyed his work, he felt he needed a change and wanted adventure and excitement in his life. Unlike some clients who reach this stage but don’t know what to do next that will give them what it is they’re seeking, Richard did know, but nonetheless it was still a scary prospect because to take this step beyond, would take him away from the security and stability he had in his current role and into the unknown.

Richard wanted to move into the travel industry with a specific focus on educational travel languages and cultural programmes within Europe. This would allow him to use his language skills and to nurture his knowledge and love of medieval and 20th century European history. He was experienced in designing school trips and had established strong collaborative working relationships with partners in a number of countries. He had also spent many holidays skiing and hiking in the Alps and so all in all he was in a pretty good place in knowing the possibilities that could be out there.

But it kept coming back to giving up a full time job and everything that went with that, it would also mean leaving his home in the UK for part of the year at least, as well as the social world he’d established for himself, and he had a pretty good life in London embracing his cultural interests and had a good circle of friends and so he fought this urge to move beyond where he was, which was actually pretty good but at the same time lacking that sense of excitement and adventure that he yearned for.

It was actually three years after I first met Richard and when he shared his career dream with me that it finally came to fruition. He admitted to having being scared to take the step he so wanted to, and of course he needed to consider the reality of the situation, particularly around the financial implications, relocating and what he would do with his home in the UK and moving away from his friends.

During these three years however he did work towards his career goal and spent his holidays exploring the countries of his choice before narrowing it down to specific regions and all the time talking to people and building relationships and friendships. Once he began to open up to people about what he aspired to do, he began to have some interesting conversations and more and more ideas opened up to him around how he could make this work and the opportunities that were out there.

For peace of mind he wanted to secure enough work for his first year and the good groundwork he put in place throughout his three year research enabled this to happen. He got his first assignment in a ski resort in the French Alps, working with Japanese business people to ensure they experienced the cultural highlights of the area. He has further work which will take him into the summer and autumn organising hiking exhibitions throughout the Alps.

Richard has now resigned from his teaching position, he’s rented his home for one year, his friends have all promised to visit him and he’s already established a good circle of friends in France. He’s stepped beyond that place of fear and is ready to embrace what lies ahead.

*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you take the necessary steps to a difficult career transition. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Is it ever too Late for your Next Career?

imagesWell no I don’t think so and recently I began work with John who is 64 and wanted to consider his next career move.

John’s career began in the forces where he was an engineer before moving into production management in the computer industry. From there he moved into design and manufacturing in the telecoms industry, then on to operations director in the pharmaceutical industry before moving into consultancy work in the tobacco industry. His work took him all over the world and along the way he undertook various pieces of research and development and also worked closely with HR departments delivering training and development.

Then he decided to retire and move to the South of France, but a few months and many gastronomic delights later John was beginning to become a little bored and wondered if he had retired just a little too early, not one to sit on his laurels he undertook a building development project which led to another and before he knew it he was sourcing French properties for folks back in the UK and project managing the development work.

So as you can appreciate John is a man of many talents and when we began our work together he wanted to figure out what he wanted to do that would fit into semi-retirement – keep him mentally stimulated but also give him the scope to do nothing if he choose to. Nothing other than developing his appreciation for fine wines, fine food and fine art that is, oh and learning to speak French and playing boules.

This was no ordinary job search campaign and we soon agreed his best plan of campaign was to connect with people he’d met throughout his career, just by way of catching up for a coffee or beer and having a chat about things in general. Well no sooner did he do this when an opportunity arose for him to deliver some very specialist consultancy training work, whereby he was training the Consultancy Firm’s consultants for this specific field based work.

He’s now established himself as the person they come to when they bring new consultants on board and he’s also been asked to be a Non Executive Director supporting the development of talent with a commitment of one day a month over ten months of the year. Un coup de chance? (a stroke of good luck?) – Maybe a little luck but I’ve come to learn the better we are the luckier we become! And John is top of the game in terms of being good.

So, it’s never too late to begin your next career and a lot of employers will value the wealth of skills and experience you will bring to the organisation.

Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you transition into your next career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement  services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs : carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Moving from Full Time Employment to Consultancy Work

freelancersA number of clients who have found themselves being made redundant from their roles because of the current economic crises consider setting themselves up as consultants in their area of expertise. Sometimes they’re at a point in their lives where they’re not quite ready to retire but they are ready to begin to wind their work down in some manner and make more time for interests or hobbies that are important to them.

Quite often these clients will count their previous employer as a source of consultancy work.  This is actually quite common when organisations are forced to downsize, because along with losing a lot of its good people it also loses the knowledge and expertise they contributed. Bringing people back on board who have organisation and industry knowledge and expertise makes perfect sense. The consultant benefits by earning a good daily rate and the organisation can pay this because they no longer have the responsibility and overheads for such things as pension and health plans or professional development.

James and Olivia are two clients who have successfully established themselves as consultants in this manner. Both James and Olivia were senior executives in their respective industries, James in the Transport Industry and Olivia in a leading Non Governmental Organisation. I was employed by their organisations as an outplacement consultant to see them through their career transition. As with all my clients I began their programmes by asking them to take a step back to  examine their skills, knowledge, experience and to consider how these were transferable into supporting them into a new career that ‘s in line with their interests, values and longer term life and career vision.

James enjoyed his work and his industry but he was at a stage in his life when his family had grown and had flown the nest. He had seen them through university and they were no longer dependent on him, he was also fortunate to no longer have a mortgage on his home and so all in all was in a good place from a financial perspective. He did however have a ‘bucket list’ of things he wanted to achieve in his life which included travelling to wonderfully exotic and interesting destinations with his wife. He also wanted to give something back to society and in some way make a difference. He wanted to continue working but just not in the same vein as before. It was important for him to remain intellectually stimulated through his work, he also wanted to retain the social aspect it provided and he needed it to fund his ‘bucket list’.

We explored and considered ways James could design his career to allow him to live his life to achieve these things. He had an extensive network with contacts throughout the UK and Europe to include Russia– one of the destinations he aspired to travel to.  Being a sociable person he began connecting with people and discovered various projects in the pipeline throughout Europe, he was known and respected in his industry and once people knew he was available for work they were more than happy to meet with him and very soon offers began to come through for consultancy work to include work with his old organisation and a piece of work in Russia.

To facilitate his travel aspirations and the ability to give back at a social level, James decided he wanted to take on assignments that would demand a commitment of several months at a time, once each piece of work was complete he would take one to three months off, during this time he would travel to a destination on his ‘bucket list’. He also identified a Social Enterprise in South Africa, where he and his wife spent time and he contributed his business acumen in helping them develop their vision and strategy.

Olivia’s being made redundant coincided with her husband and her relocating to the English coast. She wanted and needed to continue working but she also wanted to take time to settle in to her new home and community. She knew her work would take her away from home but she wanted this to me no more than three days a week, allowing her time to set up home and get to know people in her community. She also had a love of basket weaving and she wanted to make time for this along with time for cycling another love which she shared with her husband.
Similarly to James, Olivia set about networking and letting people know she was available for work. She was also highly regarded in her area of expertise and very soon she was having interesting conversations which led to work, some of which was located closer to the coastal area she had moved to, than she could have hoped for.

What is even more interesting about Olivia’s story is that once she started to connect socially with people in her community she discovered by way of conversation a non-profit basketry organisation in need of resurrection and this is exactly what she’s setting out to achieve with another woman who resides in the area.

As with all consultancy work, there are peaks and troughs in both James and Olivia’s work and because both of them have identified that they no longer wish or need to work on a full time basis, at times when they have a workload that demands more of their time than they are willing or able to give, they’re in a position to establish collaborative working relationships with fellow consultants in their respective fields and outsource this work. Many consultants will do this and it also allows them to be in a position to earn a commission for the work they pass along should they choose to.

*Published with clients permission, names have been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can support you in moving from full time employment to consultancy work. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs:  carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com