Monday, September 28, 2009

Moving Forward Toward Recovery

I’ve just come back from a week’s vacation at Lake Tahoe. In addition to relaxing and playing, I spent time each morning thinking about the times we are going through and how we are moving forward toward recovery. It’s clear that the economy is still in bad shape and that the job market is months, perhaps years, away from normalizing. Even though it looks as though we are on the verge of recovery, it will be long, slow, and painful for many of us.

That being said, many of our friends and co-workers will thrive during the months ahead, while many others will continue to face unemployment, challenges, and barriers. What distinguishes these two groups? First of all is the recognition that each of us is ultimately responsible for our lives and work. My experience says that those who own this notion, who see themselves as the authors (or at least, co-authors) of their careers have a natural advantage in the work place. They feel and express a sense of confidence, are more likely to see threats as opportunities, and look for ways to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. They get out ahead of the curve and are, so to speak, pro-active in their decisions and actions.

Furthermore, they focus their attention and energy in a direction that will help them move forward toward their own recovery. They realize and accept that they are in charge, that they have choices to make, and that there are many more things they have control over than may be obvious. They are able to clearly discern between appropriate and inappropriate choices and they take action on those which will get them moving in a steady and disciplined way. As they do this, they also learn how to articulate and tell the “right” story, both to themselves and with others, that is positive and puts the emphasis on what they can and will do (with evidence that they have those capabilities), given the right opportunity.

Practicing the suggestions above will go a long way toward helping you move forward and there’s no time like the present to begin these practices. The sooner you get on with it, the sooner you’ll find yourself on the road to recovery.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

National Career Development Strategy: Part 2

I just returned from Washington DC where we had our second meeting on the creation and implementation of a national career development strategy. There were 21 attendees from all around the country, several of whom were from prominent think tanks or high levels of the federal government.

As we worked our way through the day, one clear consensus emerged. We agreed that whatever the strategy might look like, one key to its success is that it must be deeply embedded in the K-12 curriculum so that virtually all Americans would graduate from high school with the skills and tools to manage their career for the rest of their lives. This means the development and implementation of an age-appropriate curriculum that would be just as vital to the educational process as are current and emerging graduation requirements.

All through the discussion, I couldn’t help thinking about the hundreds of clients I have seen in the last few years. Most are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s and virtually every one, somewhere in the process, makes a comment like, “I wish I had learned this when I was younger,” or “Why don’t they teach these things while we are in school?” The reality is that it is taught, but it’s not core to the curriculum, as it should be.

Assuming career development competence becomes part of what we learn by the time we are 18, how would our work lives be different? First of all, people will make choices that serve them well, as they will know how to make wise decisions and will recognize that they are responsible for creating the future they most want. Secondly, people will feel confident about their prospects, because even if they don’t know what their future looks like, they will have all the tools needed to figure out and make their goals a reality. Finally, for those who go on to college, having the skills to plan and manage their futures means their experience is likely to be more focused and meaningful.

If we can do this, the anxiety, fear, and disengagement we see around is going to lessen and become much more manageable. Rather than doing what most of us do now, like waiting for unemployment to get better, hoping the economy will improve, or wishing that the pace of change will slow down or settle, those who know how to manage their careers will find themselves in control and much more able to create the future they desire.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman