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When will I get that dream job?
Will I be as successful as I dream of being?
Why am I not getting the job/promotion/pay rise/secondment I want?
How do I get to the perfect professional position?
Is my job secure?
Most of us find these questions and more coming up in our professional lives at some point. While it may seem that a fortune teller has a better chance of giving an answer than we do, that may not necessarily be the case.
I recently started doing an online module on ‘strategic thinking’ and it struck me that a lot of what I was learning could help formulate some answers to these questions including the ‘how’ bit.
Some key ideas that the course made me realise include:
- Am I aware of the larger vision and goals of my organisation?
- Can I demonstrate that awareness and how my work contributes to these?
- What is the trend in the sector that I work? How does my organisation sit within that?
- Am I/my organisation prepared for a sudden/disruptive change?
- Why me?
Being able to answer points 1-2, would make you a valuable resource for the organisation as opposed to another average employee. It would probably increase job security and chances of doing well within the organization. My university, for example, is undergoing a strategic change at this time, and it probably makes sense to be aware of where it’s headed now (towards a more research excellent reputation), and accordingly see if my work fits that goal and to be able to demonstrate it to my head of department!
Point 3 can help look at the larger picture and see where the organisation could do better and possibly point that out, again improving one’s performance within it. It can also point to something equally important but distinct: if this sector is shrinking, is this where you want to be? Should you attempt lateral moves: another company/lab doing well/another location where the downsizing may be delayed? But ultimately after a certain period, will it restrict your growth and/or put you in a position where a big jump is inevitable? In which case, should you move to a different high growth sector/industry where your skills and knowledge transfer well? How do you identify it?
Point 4 made me think of digital cameras: they completely changed the way we take pictures and also routed film cameras completely. Almost no one uses the old cameras any more. Could this happen to me? My core expertise is numerical modelling methods, and before the advent of commercial software (that were reasonably good/user friendly/affordable to a degree) modelling was the domain of experts. Today, that is not so. The trend is set to continue, with labs buying these software and often people who don’t have (in some cases don’t need to either) extensive training, knowledge and experience with modelling methods to simulate devices. What does that indicate for the future for me? How likely is such a disruptive change and how fast would the transition be? How does one deal with that?
Point 5 made me realise that even in a focused area where my expertise would be useful and required, I still have to make the case, for myself: why pick me? Amongst the many applicants for this position, what makes me special?
The next thing is how does one answer these questions? Where does one even begin?
There are a number of tools (associated with theories) that can be used to assist one. To help see the bigger picture, the course suggested that it is worth asking ‘what if’ questions that questioned the status quo; gathering information and learning about trends, challenging assumptions, trying to look at the situation from different perspectives, identifying the root cause.
As a lot of this thinking has developed in the business world, the tools developed by thinkers, scholars and management gurus can be very powerful. The website ‘mindtools’ has a very good collection of these, and there is some fascinating reading to be found on the sites of The Economist and Harvard Business Review. I also found this blog to be quite insightful: http://brainzooming.blogspot.co.uk/
I guess this means some homework for me. And maybe for you too!