Younger staff often approach older staff and ask for career guidance/counselling. What advice should the more experienced staff give?
Well, we all know from experience that career choices/progression is governed by a person’s characteristics, aptitudes, personal circumstances, and personality. These attributes need to be matched to their career and progression. Additionally, career choice is a continuous and life-long process, governed by a person’s needs, capabilities, potential, and the job environment.
This has been known for over a hundred years and career ‘models’ started in the early 1900s, aimed at a ‘talent match’:
- understand an individual’s aptitudes, interests and limitations, then…
- match them to a knowledge of the requirements and conditions of different kinds of employment.
This then gives a career planning model that will involve:
- understanding what the individual wants and what they can offer;
- knowing where the opportunities are to satisfy what they want and what they can offer;
- collating all the facts (1 and 2), and deciding on where/what to do; then…
- do it.
OK, so this is clear, but… is it helpful? It all seems a bit obvious to me, and… does it really help a young person with career choices?
When I look at career development models and theories I do not find them very helpful or practical. They quickly go into personality traits, psychology, sociology, etc., and become both formulaic and complicated. Personally, all I want to know is… how do I make a decision about my career, at any point, given the situation I find myself in? I know my personality, and personal circumstances, so… what should I do?
Certainly, ‘vocational guidance’ starts with understanding the individual and matching them with an occupation and location, but this is often a fait accompli – an individual will have qualifications and experience that limit them to one profession/occupation, and family ties often restrict where they can work. Additionally, many of us do not have the luxury of simply ‘moving on’ (the job market may not be very good), or changing career (I need money now), or deciding to move location (my partner has a say, also).
In this blog I give a very personal career model – more a career ‘decision’ model, but it is simple and practical. It is called ‘The 5 ‘P’s’, and I pass it onto my mentees. It is 100% empirical, and I make no apologies for this.
A PERSONAL VIEW
We all have personal experiences of career highs and career lows. We also have made good decisions and bad decisions. My career model is based on my career, and watching 100s of colleagues as they progressed (or did not progress…), so my sample size is more than one….
I am not going to tell you some lessons I’ve learnt… such as working hard, and meeting all your targets can cause real irritation in colleagues and bosses, or… being honest with your line manager can be a very good exit plan, or… a critique of your senior management (correct or not) is marginally better than writing a suicide note. These lessons may appear in another blog….
THE 5 ‘P’S
I think five elements dictate career decisions (in no order – Figure 1):
- PRICE: how much am I being paid?
- PLACE: where (location) do I work?
- PLEASURE: do I enjoy my work?
- PEOPLE: do I like the people I work with?
- POWER: how much influence do I have over my work and career?
We all work for money. I often hear than money is not a major motivator when it comes to career choices. Really? I agree that if you are well paid, you have other priorities, and as you progress through your career, money is not a career-driver, but money may not be a motivator, but lack of money is the best demotivator you can have.
My first job, after university, was at an engineering company, in their research department. It was very enjoyable, but the pay was too low – I had a growing family, and needed a house. ‘Price’ beat ’pleasure’ (see later).
‘Price’ is about being paid – at least – what you deserve. At certain stages of your career, it is the number one priority.
I envy people who work in beautiful places, and there are many. Location is important, but often we cannot chose our location. If you work in the oil and gas business, cities such as Aberdeen, Abu Dhabi, Houston, Calgary, etc., choose you. Bankers go to London, Singapore, Zurich, etc..
Many years ago I was offered a highly paid job in Africa, for a very good company, but my kids were all going through school, and were all very settled in their current home. ‘Place’ beat ‘pay’.
Wherever we work, we have to be happy, and any family we have must be able to settle quickly, and not have major upsets.
‘Place’ is all about quality of life.
You have to enjoy doing your work. OK, we can all tolerate boredom/discomfort for a price, for a short time. But a lifetime? Today’s millennial generation may have to work into their 70s, so a pleasurable job is important.
‘Pleasure’ is about enjoying your working day, and going home happy and satisfied.
You work for 45 years… 45 weeks per year… 5 days a week. That’s about 10,000 days. You will live for about 30,000 days. Do you want to spend one third of your life with people you do not like?
The people you work with can help you learn, mature, and progress. They are important, and many may become close friends. But… people can also hinder your career, overwork you, underpay you, and many can be toxic. The people you work with are important.
‘People’ is about belonging to a team you like and admire.
‘Power’ means having an influence on your career. This power normally comes later in your career when you reach senior positions, and are able to direct company policies and strategies, that directly impact on your own career.
Many years ago I worked for a company in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. I was very happy in the company and in Newcastle upon Tyne. Then… the company said we were all moving to Loughborough, UK. Loughborough is a very nice place, but I was happy where I was. Problem was, I had no power to change the decision, and had had no say in the decision to move to a new town. Powerless. After that experience, I decided to never have a job that had no power.
You may think your will be powerless in your early career, as you will be very junior. This is incorrect, as you should have – at all stages of your career – a ‘Plan B’. If my current job ends, or I want to leave, what is my ‘Plan B’? Another company, another region, another career? This ‘Plan B’ gives you power throughout your career, but it is better if you actually have power to dictate the path of your current job, as a ‘Plan B’ is usually an emergency measure.
‘Power’ is about having a say in your career.
SO… HOW DO I USE THE 5 PS?
Whenever you are asked to make a decision about your career (for example, if you are offered another job), hold your hand up and think about the 5 Ps.
The Ps have differing priorities as you go through your life; for example:
- when you are young you need money to buy a house, a new car, etc., so ‘Price’ is your first finger.
- if you have a family, moving location can be very difficult, so ‘Place’ takes priority; and,
- as you reach the later stages of your career, and have more financial security, and a settled existence, ‘Pleasure’ can become your priority.
Also, the length of the finger reflects your assessment of each element. For example, if you dislike the location of your job, you lose that finger. If you are ‘so-so’, your finger becomes an unfortunate stub…. Missing or stub fingers reflect very badly on your current situation….
You look at your hand and decide if all the Ps are present, and in the right order, and there are no stubs….
It’s better to have 5 Fingers on a Hand…
When you assess your career you need five fingers. If your assessment loses fingers, or parts of them, you need to reassess, or accept that your career has some flaws. This can be OK – if you are being paid $500,000/annum, who cares if your boss is a halfwit?
How low can you go? Well, this is a very personal decision, but think about clinging onto a rope with one hand, Figure 2, and your life depends on it.
The more intact fingers you have, the better grip you have. It is the same with your career… ensure you have a good grip….