One of the “costs” of corporate life is that in the pressures of work it is difficult for individuals to find time to develop their careers. This is true at many levels. Many partners in professional services firms – taking one example of successful people in conventional terms – feel totally caught up in their work. For many years there has been something of a refrain around this theme.
Organisational life – and in fact living itself – seems to be “speeding up” and becoming more pressured and less satisfying. A recent release from the Conference Board had this to say about a survey on declining job satisfaction: “The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to job security (down 17.5 percentage points) and crosses all four of the key drivers of employee engagement: job design, organizational health, managerial quality, and extrinsic rewards.”
Changes in technology also compound the “noise” and pressure surrounding work. We are all busy dealing with emails, texts, twitters and social networking and generally living increasingly pressured lives rather than experiencing pleasure and fulfillment. It is a rare person these days who seems calm, comfortable in their own skin, rarely rattled, and yet moving with some purpose and direction.
When work is taken away by events beyond our control then the challenges of exploring alternatives in this kind of culture are immense. Even small things like preparing for an interview loom as worrying unknowns. A mixture of fear and anger with their situation can derail people for a time.
The fact is we “own” our careers and the changes that occur during our careers. They are not given to us by firms or professional practices, or the boss we happen to be working with for a time. How is it possible to reclaim a bit of control over where we are going? To stop and reflect?
I am certainly not one of those gifted with deep inner calmness. The little bit of insight I do have is that balance, calmness and fulfillment comes about through practices and habits. Not through deep study or intensive training. Not through achieving that one last promotion.
In our early work with individuals, we visit this truth and help it become a reality in several ways. We do a lot of questioning and listening to learn about the individual. We get them to listen to themselves as they work through what they have done and their career achievements. We explore and widen the canvas of alternatives. We encourage multiple conversations and investigations with others.
Behaviours, practices and disciplines matter in achieving inner calmness and control. This about taking time, off, decompressing, taking time to really engage with people, and repackaging how you invest time. Look around you for someone who really exemplifies control and a centred approach to living. Model your practices around theirs for a time. Experiment with switching off the phone for periods. Leave the emails for another day. When more of that is happening, take some time out, and maybe some advice, to reflect on how to take back control of your career.
A colleague observed that it is perhaps no accident that I pen this blog as I prepare to go on leave …. you make look forward to my thoughts on fresh starts when I return.