The baby steps to start controlling your career

Last week, you may recall, we had an email from DR.

He wrote: “I’ve been doing the same job for the past 25 years – retail sales. I was reared in it and about 15 years ago I inherited the family shop. It’s all I know, and, to be honest, I am very happy doing it. But it’s fairly obvious my business is going downhill in these difficult times and I’m thinking about going before I am shoved, so to speak. But I have no idea what I might do next, and no clue where to start. Any tips – and I mean ‘early-stage’ stuff, not advanced? Baby steps.”

Last week, we got him to start the process of identifying his competencies. Next we talk not about the real DR, but about an imaginary DR who has identified the following competencies and attributes.

She has good people skills. She likes ‘new things’ – and, conversely, dislikes that which is mundane and repetitive. She doesn’t like managing people but really enjoys working in a tightly-knit team where everyone generally take responsibility for their own performance – yet, if necessary, people help each out when the pressure comes on.

She is good on detail and can persuade and influence others. She writes well and her verbal communication is equally effective. She’ll generally find a way around a problem: she’s not one to sit on her hands and wait for somebody else to figure out a solution.

She is not hectic with figures, dislikes poor standards, and can barely turn on a computer.

So what to do with such a profile?

First off, we are acting without perhaps the most crucial element of all here: a real person that we have met, talked to, engaged with, and weighed up.

Allowing for that, the first observation I would make is it sounds like she was ideally suited to retail, the very sector she is currently in. Given the competencies and attributes outlined above, she should consider staying in retail. Sometimes career satisfaction lies much closer to home than people realise.

A high degree of interaction with people – and new scenarios – should form a major part of her new career. What about becoming a development worker with an enterprise board? Working with people to develop their ideas, she would question them without alienating them, and her fondness for ‘new things’ means the variety would be right up her street.

A training role is another that could appeal to her. Again, variety, lots of interaction with people and potential to influence. Her poor IT skills might go against her.  Group facilitation, that could suit: in these roles, she could come and go, so to speak, rather than having to wait around to manage and be responsible for the performance of others.

Marketing or Public Relations could make her happy. Human resource management won’t. What about going adult literacy teaching? That could be a runner too.

Anyway, you get the drift. Take the competencies and attributes, add in the hobbies and interests (both missing from this simple exercise), consider environmental factors such as location and age (again, excluded here), mix it all up, and then, and only then, run through a list of careers to see what rocks your boat.

As an exercise, it can prove enjoyable, stimulating, challenging and even inspiring. This life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Psychometric testing can enhance the process, but what we have outlined above is a good way to start your explorations.