Archive for category Career success
The title of this article has a dual significance. First, it’s an acknowledgement of my failure to keep this blog up to date. My new role means that I have less time and less headspace for the reflection needed to write this stuff.
A lot of my learning at the moment is around how to be a good manager (or possibly how to be less of a bad one).
Currently, my learning is following it’s usual pattern. I’m learning through doing, reading and trying to teach others. At some point the trying to teach others bit will probably extend to writing more about my learning, but at the moment it is mainly limited to the various bits leadership development training I’m delivering.
One of those bits of leadership development training was the CMI Level 5 module I taught recently on managing ideas and innovation and in my usual domain-hopping way I have started to think about how the theories and models applied here could be useful in career development work with clients and in the development of careers professionals.
It’s not just businesses and entrepreneurs who have to be innovative. In the current economic climate, individuals have to be increasingly innovative with their own career development and job hunting. Similarly, as career professionals, we have to develop more innovative approaches to address the demands of our individual and institutional clients.
And this is where the second significance of the title comes in. Wherever there is a need to innovate, there is an accompanying need to be able to deal with the possibility of failure. In career terms, this is often linked with the idea of resilience. But there is more to dealing with failure than just the ability to bounce back and stay optimistic.
Failure is an integral and unavoidable part of any truly innovative process (unless you are incredibly lucky!). Preparing for innovation requires you to anticipate failure, accommodate failure, plan to recover from failure and learn from failure.
In a recent coaching session with a client, we were discussing options for embarking on a freelance career. The issue of possible failure came up and I struggled to find a way to help her think about failure constructively. Then I remembered a concept I had introduced in the CMI module: 4F – Fail Fast, Fail Forward. She immediately got it and responded enthusiastically. This isn’t so surprising (despite the name) because it actually reflects a growth or incremental mindset and an approach rather than avoidance motivation.
Fail fast – be ready for things to go wrong, know what early indicators of potential failure to look out for and be ready to act quickly.
Fail forward – don’t spend time on recriminations and wishful thinking, focus on solutions and focus on learning lessons so that your next attempts have a greater chance of success.
Is it possible to know the future? Most people would say not. Yet many careers theories and theories about entrepreneurial behaviour inadvertently assume that it is possible.
In 1921 Frank Knight, who once taught the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, wrote a seminal book called Risk, Uncertainty and Profit. Knight explained that there was a difference between risk (where the probability of success is known) and uncertainty (where the probability of success is unknown). More recently the economist Saras Sarasvathy, in her book Effectuation, pointed out that Knight had actually written about a third category – only no-one had noticed. This overlooked third category described a future that is not only unknown, but is unknowable, even in principle.
This observation, that there is an important difference between a future that is difficult to predict and a future that is impossible to predict, could lead to profound changes in our understanding of career choice.
Every now and again during interview coaching, I will stop and ask the client, “What do you think I’m looking for with that question?”. Having read an article by some organisational psychologists at the University of Zurich (Kleinmann et al., 2011), I’m going to ask that question a lot more.
I work in two distinct careers settings. One is with high-achieving students at the University of London and the other is with clients who often have few qualifications (if any) at a small job club where I volunteer in the evenings.
At the job club we try hard to engage with NEETs (those Not in Education, Employment or Training). We have limited success. The biggest issue I have found with this group is not their low economic status nor lack of decent qualifications, but a major lack of aspiration.
There have been quite a few studies into the link between achievement and aspiration. One of the latest has come from researchers at Queen Mary University of London (Rothon et al., 2011) and it demonstrates a clear association between aspiration and achievement.
educational aspirations had a strong association with actual achievement, remaining associated even after controlling for a number of other variables, including prior achievement