Career Clinic: How do you Maximize your Talent?

Career Success: Plan, or be planned for

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and spotted a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. His response was a question: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” Alice in Wonderland

Wearing my Executive Coaching hat, I’m often asked to help someone think through their future. What job would they really like to do? In what areas could they really shine? How can they guarantee financial security for the family? What are the realistic possibilities to change from where they are now? In one intriguing recent project, I worked with a client to help him plan 10 years ahead. But the more usual request is to figure out the next move in a sequence that most people construct one step at a time. Some never figure it out. They are seduced by phone calls from search consultants and ‘go along’ to an exploratory meeting. Before they realize it, they’re writing a goodbye speech without having thought through the career move in any meaningful way. Message = Don’t allow yourself to be a puppet in a headhunters’ sales target.

Think it Through: After working on this question loads of times, one inescapable conclusion has emerged; there is no foolproof way to figure out the perfect career. However, the opposite idea – ‘just sit around and see what happens’ – is hardly a recipe for success. So I’ve developed a process which helps ‘the answer’ to emerge. The Career Anchors Exercise allows you to systematically explore what job you really want to do. Populate the framework and the answer to the perfect career question will become clearer. While the format seems deceptively simple, the good news is that it works. Skeptical? Try it!

Career Anchors Exercise 

First Column: Possible Roles: In the first column, list all of the possible jobs you could do – either now or with some additional training. Then capture the pluses of working in this particular role for you as an individual. In another column, ask: What are the negatives of working in this role? Be honest with yourself. Some examples are listed below:

Teacher 3 months holidays; I Hate Kids

Astronaut Lots of Travel; Afraid of Heights

Accountant Love Business; Can’t Subtract

Dog Trainer Outdoor Work; Terrible Allergies

Ambulance Driver Fast Driving; Queasy around Blood

Simple Ideas: Sometimes, the best ideas are straightforward. The math of 2+2=4 is simple; it’s also correct. You need to invest time in thinking about the future. Perhaps Mary Oliver captured this best when she asked: “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” Now, complete the exercise and sort it out!

Paul Mooney

PS Joke of the Week: We are in the process of choosing a new dog and I’ve been to tons of dog shows lately with the kids, looking at a variety of different breeds. Picked this one up at the last event (if you are very PC, look away now!).

Paddy: “I’m thinking of buying a Labrador”
Mick: “Don’t! Have you seen how many of their owners go blind?”


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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