Recently, the staff here in the OITE had a dose of our own medicine. Our boss asked us to complete a document about our professional goals and needs. This document reminded many of us about how we tell trainees to “fill out an IDP”.
For a group of professionals in the career development field, we were all surprised how hard this document was to complete. Now, we have a whole new appreciation of what our trainees struggle with when we ask them to do the same thing.
A favorite quote from one personal document was: “These goals seem a bit random, because at the moment that is how I feel about preparing for the next step. A bit out-of-focus and not sure where to go next; I am not sure what I am missing.” Sound familiar??
So why was it so hard for us?
- Telling our boss what we want to do next is tough. No one wants their current boss to think they are unhappy with their current job. Sometimes one can actually be really happy, but this document makes it feel like you are telling them all of the ways the current position stinks. And if the boss thinks we are not happy, or are we are thinking of moving on… the boss may think less of us or perceive us as not giving 110%. So, we struggled with how honest to be.
- Not having a clear understanding of where you want to go next, nor what you need to get there. This is like the interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” We all honestly just want to say, “Happily employed”. But this question really is at the heart of career development. What trajectory do you want to go on? For some of us we feel like we are in unchartered territory, there is no obvious next step. Therefore it is hard to understand how to prepare for it.
- Assessing where you are personally and what you need to work on takes a high level of self-awareness and honesty. This really means taking a hard look at your strengths and weaknesses and then charting how these will influence your career path.
How did we overcome the challenges?
Taking time to sit and think. This is the type of exercise that takes time, and time is always a limited commodity. We are all busy. But, like exercising, this is one of those things you need to do for your personal good. We all finally had to set a deadline, and for many of us this is the reason we finished.
Find a way to structure your thinking. For some of us, that was pulling out an IDP document. Others of us did a personal SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Some people made lists of items. Whatever works for you, find a way to give yourself some starting points so you are not just looking at a blank piece of paper.
Asking career mentors. Hopefully you have heard our mantra of multiple mentors. Here in the office we chatted with each other (peer mentors) and other staff to put some ideas on the table to discuss the pros and cons.
Realizing that this is just a process, and not a commitment. The goal here is to have a document to start a career journey, not to make a long term contract to a particular career choice. By continuing the conversation with a career coach, thinking more, and exploring– this document will morph as we make choices for our futures.