Uncharted territory: Approaching your career as a voyage
‘‘I am on a voyage of discovery. I search for those of you who will go on a great adventure… if you are one those audacious few willing to dare and then to share… then come with me!’’ William DanforthThe ground-breaking seafarers of bygone times had to venture into strange and stormy seas to discover worlds that were still hidden to the known civilisation. These were daring missions. Yet, they were greatly instrumental in unleashing the potential of foreign lands. There is much we could learn from these bold men – not discounting a bunch of career lessons. Why not put on your life jacket and sailor cap, kindle your pioneering spirit and picture your professional path as an exciting sea expedition?
Get equipped for the expeditionNo mariner worth his (sea) salt would jump on a ship without being well prepared to meet the challenges ahead. You need to be too! Learn to sail the oceans and survive at sea with continuous professional development. There are countless online and face-to-face courses and workshops available for just about any profession. Make sure you are up to date with the latest nautical equipment and technology – i.e. the advancements in your specific field of work. However, vocational training is not everything – you would also need to “get your sea legs”: commit to the personal growth you need to stand strong in an unsteady and challenging environment. Life and work are not separate entities and self-enrichment activities (e.g. fostering your spiritual life, reading personal development books, etc.) will ultimately also benefit your career. Furthermore, you are not alone at sea! You need to get to know and understand how to deal with the crew working by your side. And if you are in the position to choose crew members, do so wisely and carefully – one of the greatest career assets you could possibly have is a good team. Prevent problematic partnerships.
Plotting your journeyGetting on a ship without any idea of your destination or objective for the journey is not exactly an adventure, but rather a good waste of resources and time. This does not mean that you have to be certain of the destination (that would defeat the purpose of pioneering!) and it is more than fine if the itinerary changes along the way. However, if you just allow your boat to be tossed by the waves without following any plan, it would most likely shipwreck. Therefore, make sure you set (and regularly revise) career goals. Map these out on a flexible timeline. Know that you would have to deliberately steer yourself towards your target – a ship can stay afloat – but not on course – by itself. Also, plan to stop at “refreshment posts” along the way – occasional breaks are equally as important to effectiveness as hard work.
Navigating stormy watersSailing the seas come with storms, seasickness, icebergs, pirates and endless other challenges. In your career, you will be faced with trials too – an unsteady economy, job transitions, fierce competition, interpersonal struggles, professional mistakes and more. Do not be dismayed when the waves get high – this is normal nautical life. A strong ship and able crew will manage to withstand it. But you will need to be ready. Some nifty navigation tools you might want to take on board for this purpose:
- Career advisors. When the going gets tough you will need all hands on-deck. Get appropriate advice for different kinds of difficulties from a knowledgeable friend, a life coach, a lawyer or another suitable professional.
- A “Plan B”. If the route you are on does not work out, change direction. Be committed but not married to your job and always be familiar with and on the lookout for alternatives.
- Savings. Do not run out of rations. Be prepared for times of unemployment – whether due to retrenchment or because you are embarking on an entrepreneurial venture and will need to be sustained during the start-up phase.
- Knowledge of the economy. This is the telescope you need to detect distant threats and possibilities. Continually read up on economic and political happenings – especially as they apply to your field. This will give you the proactive edge to either dodge or ride an oncoming wave.
- Mediators. Know where to find go-between people to help manage clashes with colleagues – HR staff, counsellors, professional mediators or even senior co-workers could be helpful.
- A flexible and resilient attitude. This might be your greatest piece of navigational equipment during a crisis. Develop it by having a solid social support structure, taking care of your body and mind, and again – through dedicated personal growth.
Trusting your gutA seasoned sailor develops a sixth sense for the sea. He can “read” the weather, discern dangerous ships and shores and knows which shipmates to trust. Knowledge, skill and good counsel are of immeasurable value. However, you should never underestimate your instincts. Even if something makes sense on paper, you can sometimes simply sense that it is not actually a good idea. Or you just have a feeling that you should pursue some opportunity – a business deal; a career change; a partnership… As you grow professionally, you will sharpen this intuitional ability and – like any skill – it can only develop with practice. You will sometimes make mistakes when you follow your gut, but you will surely lose out if you never do.
Owning My CareerOwning your career is an invitation and inspiration for you to create ideas, skills and events that correlate with your intention. The aim of the Owning My Career coaching voyage is to help you to dream, believe and do what needs to be done to experience your career aspirations. Outcomes:
- Building an ownership mentality
- Creating your picture of success (on personal and professional levels)
- Developing a career plan
- Leveraging on your strengths
- Creating confidence with evidence
- Your “show up” strategy
- Identifying your support network
- Managing career transitions effectively
- Building a strategy to expand your career
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