As we approach the middle of the year, I’ve been reflecting on our members, your personal goals, and your career paths. One of the things I love most about this calling is the variety of our combined experiences, coupled with the uniqueness and individuality of our members, which allows us all to learn from each other. We’ve had an amazing opportunity to gain insight into your greatest achievements, and the breadth is astounding – probably more about this in a future post.
One of the key themes emerging from our engagements, in addition to the naturally career- and study-focused paths you’ve taken, is that a number of you count physical pursuits and success as among your ambitions. This is probably as a counterbalance to the intellectual ways you spend most of your day at work. For example, we’ve heard about activities as diverse as half-marathons, climbing Kilimanjaro, and open-water diving.
Some of you shared how you prepared for, and practised, to achieve these dreams, and how, while performing, you learnt how both physically and mentally capable you are.
The purpose of this post is to draw some parallels between these physical accomplishments and the process of actively managing and developing your career. From your stories, the starting point is deciding on your goal – a choice which may involve much research and discussion with friends and family, or alternatively, might simply be a quick decision on a whim or after a couple of drinks!
The next stage is then to plan out how you will achieve the goal, effectively drawing up a roadmap of the steps you will take to get there e.g. an exercise regime or a practice schedule, allowing space and freedom to take rests where required, or catchup if circumstances mean you fall behind.
Talking (or, even better, practising) with others who’ve achieved similar things before also helps, both to give you insight into what worked for them, and also to reiterate that your goal is indeed possible with the right combination of desire and execution. The engagement can be a source of motivation to push yourself too.
Another way you could keep your motivation levels up is to plan combinations of rewards and practice into your roadmap e.g. a practice run in a new city you’ve always wanted to visit. The ultimate of these might be a congratulatory reward once you’ve achieved your goal, as this can help inspire you during the tough times. An example here is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia to celebrate your diving prowess.
Overall, achieving the physical goal requires many of the same characteristics and activities as actively managing your career:
Thank you to those of you who’ve shared your insights with us so far, either via email or as members of PROTAGION. Some of you may recognise your personal achievements and goals as examples above, and we encourage readers of this post to share your stories with us, or comment on our posts, too.
Are there other similarities you’ve personally experienced between training your body for an arduous marathon, triathlon, contest, expedition, or olympics, and actively managing your professional career that you can share with us?
This week I attended a Human Resources and People Development conference where one of the speakers referred to a presentation by Maxine Williams, Facebook’s Global Director of Diversity. He mentioned her views on using data analytics – especially when analysing success strategies involving people where sample sizes are small. In her talk, she valued “evidence-based talent management” but also questioned how to interpret conclusions and the level of certainty around them when considering under-represented populations.
Watching Maxine’s passion and natural style of engaging with her Wharton audience made me want to learn more about her own background, and what brought her to her current role. She speaks about “social justice” as her thread through her career, including her legal background.
I was delighted to learn she is a Rhodes Scholar. And, in keeping with the expectations of this honour, she is now impacting and inspiring so many around the world.
The Rhodes Trust states its mission is “to identify and develop leaders to achieve public good”. Its selection process looks for individuals “of outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service”, “truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship” and “moral force of character and instincts to lead, and take an interest in one’s fellow beings”.
And, as it is Youth Day in South Africa today, which commemorates the power of our young people to bring about tremendous social change, I felt it fitting to share a video of Maxine with you (7.5 minutes long). In it, she describes her route (often “by chance”) to becoming a lawyer, an actress, a media personality, a human rights activist, a diversity specialist, a writer, and a recorder of life stories. She talks about how she found herself, knowing “whatever I put my mind to, I could do”. She also refers to the people around her who helped her before and during her time at Oxford.
I found it inspiring, and I hope you do too.