Saturday, 30 August 2014

Using career planning ideas to inform coaching and mentoring

Recently, as a result of a project a group of us are involved with at work we have been thinking about setting up coaching/mentoring / shadowing services for Library staff.  I’d already attended a staff development session at work on using coaching skills to unlock potential which got me quite excited about the idea and, as luck would have it, another session was being run by the same trainer on career planning. So on April 2nd (forgive me for the huge lapse in time in writing this up!) I attended in the hope that it might help provide some ideas of how we can make these services more effective.

The workshop:

It was a small group - just 5 attendees, including myself. This meant that it was quite an intimate atmosphere and we were able to share stories, advice, and discuss the topics in some detail. We started off the day by looking at ‘pinnacles and foothill’ moments of our working past and identifying what was energising and satisfying about the pinnacles and draining and unsatisfying about the foothills. The idea being that if we looked at these events we could pick and choose the scenarios we wanted to avoid or repeat.

The workshop was very closely aligned with the changes both within our organisation and in higher education in general, for example, there was significant discussion about various work processes altering, getting used to working with new departments, and how student fees and expectations might impact on the institution and our role within it. Identifying these changes led us to establish what new skills would be needed and determining how we would be able to ensure we developed these. This is where I could see the coaching fitting in quite nicely as it would specifically target these areas.

As another exercise, we were asked to fill in a ‘career wheel’ to establish how balanced each aspect of our work life was; this was quite similar in some respects to some of the exercises I completed a while ago in What Color is your parachute. My answers, using both approaches, indicated that my ‘perfect' job at the moment would be very similar to what I am doing now - a job with lots of variety and autonomy; one that involves training and helping people,  but in in an environment with prettier surroundings, and the ability to work from home a couple of days a week. 

One of the areas we were asked to consider was whether our personal plans and interests overlapped with these changing needs within the organisation.  I think this is a very important question to consider as it’s healthy not to have too much of a disconnect between the two. While the current economic climate is unlikely to provide a job that ticks every single box, it’s a useful exercise to be able to recognise the perfect role just in case it does turn up one day.
Do the all the aspects of your work life balance out?
The end of the day focused on networking using social media (I ended up doing training sessions on LinkedIn and Twitter after some of the conversations that took place here, which was a handy bit of stealth advocacy for the Library) and branding which I’m not so keen on as a concept, perhaps because I don’t generally trust brands and nor do I want to be a product.


Ultimately, it was a worthwhile day. It didn’t teach me anything new about myself or my career path, apart from perhaps to emphasise how important some green space and natural light is to me; however, I could see that plenty of the exercises we completed would work in a coaching or mentoring setting. If we do decide to go ahead with it, it could become a great way of helping people work out what’s available to them and how they can get there. As someone who didn’t do a graduate traineeship nor came into contact with people from a range of careers growing up, something like this would have been very useful for me earlier on.

What do you think? Do your values and interests match your job? Would you recognise ‘the perfect job’ if it dropped in your inbox tomorrow? Do you already have it – in which case, how do you know it is? Does it even matter, as long as it pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head? I'd be very interested to read your comments.

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