Time for another real-life example. Something that comes up often, which can be an internal barrier to people seeking career support. A conversation with a protege brought it top of mind…
Spoiler alert: at Protagion, our focus is on helping you achieve your career ambitions, whatever those might be i.e. from where you are now to where you want to be. We do encourage you to reflect on your route to today, yes, and this is useful information to prompt your thinking. But, please don’t feel that your past should dominate you or hold you back. Concentrate on your goal(s), and the steps/improvements you can take iteratively from here to get there. And, where the past has a particularly strong hold on you, some of our coaches have specific skills in helping you move forward to acceptance.
Back to the story… This specific conversation was with a mid-career professional who had previously shifted industries, and is looking to make another shift. Theoretically, this second shift should be mentally easier for them (having transformed themselves once before already, and expressing a preference for the ‘non-traditional approach’). However, they are conflicted with a complex set of emotions which are weighing on their mind: a lingering sense of ‘unfinished business’ when they think of their first industry and the qualifications important in it, regrets about not seeking help earlier, and stress about how these feelings are holding them back from their next shift.
Firstly, kudos to them for reaching out for support - you are very definitely not alone! The mixture of emotions has led to an ongoing cycle of anxiety, and feelings of personal disappointment and helplessness, prompting them to want to blot out these negative thoughts and further ignore the underlying challenges… Incredibly tough to deal with on your own. The great news is that they are now taking steps to get support from others who’ve walked this path before, who can act as sounding boards, and who can support them to get to where they want to be.
During our conversation, we touched on the work of Brene Brown, who they are also a big fan of. They referred regularly to having been in the ‘wilderness’, and they recognised that they have been stuck on their own, unsuccessfully trying to make progress. Towards the end of our initial conversation, they shared that they had been very apprehensive about having the chat, and I did my best to reassure them that all of us at Protagion are here to support them: career challenges are much easier to face with support from fellow professionals. A board of mentors and coaches can provide diverse angles of support needed. They used a reasonably graphic (but memorable) analogy about their distress being a boil that just keeps getting bigger because of reluctance to acknowledge it, but it takes personal courage, and perhaps medical support, to prick it so that it can heal. Here’s to helping you heal!
There are many professionals who deep down know they have an unresolved challenge or issue which is holding them back from achieving their personal goals. And, the older we get, the more ‘unfinished business’ and/or regrets we might accumulate. Exam misses, burnt bridges, seemingly irreparable corporate relationships, feelings of failure, and more. You may even have tried for years to address things on your own. If you are one of these professionals, please reach out to others for support: existing coaches you work with, your support network, or us - we’d be delighted to explore with you how our professional mentors and coaches could support you!
Many of our proteges and mentors were good students at school and university. This is natural given Protagion’s professional focus, and we’re incredibly proud of our members’ foundational achievements, from good grades to degrees from prestigious institutions to their professional qualifications and beyond.
In Playing Big*, ‘good student’ Tara Mohr discusses her experiences of “...the deeper learning, the lessons slowly absorbed, day by day, from the culture of school itself” and asks:
Like us, she noticed that, in some ways, the skills we learn and behaviours we practice at school and university – those we originally thought were the ingredients for accomplishment – don’t serve us that well in the working world. As Tara puts it: “Blazing a bright trail in [our] careers – moving from ‘good worker bee’ to ‘mover and shaker’ - requires an entirely different set of muscles, skills, and ways of being than the ones [we] honed at school.” While our academic training and conditioning can lead to success at midlevels in our organisations, it does not necessarily translate into success as senior leaders, trailblazers or pioneering innovators.
Read more to explore three approaches which led to success in our studies but which don’t serve us as well in the world of work: advance preparation, adapting to authority, and assuming that good work will speak for itself. These are not universally applicable as all schools and university environments are different, and there will be other examples too, so please share your thoughts with us below the full article.
While prompted by a recent discussion with a protege, our latest real-life example uses a blend of situations to illustrate the issue and our suggestions. This blend includes real-life situations we’ve seen in the past and/or discussions we’ve had, in order to anonymise things somewhat… It is thus a composite, and “any resemblance to actual events or people, living or dead, is purely coincidental” - quite a paradox for a ‘real-life example’ post yes.
The composite example involves when your relationship with your long-standing employer ends unexpectedly, leaving you as a professional in the wilderness, unsure of how to proceed... And, this is sadly far more common than you might imagine. The uncertainty arises from multiple angles, including emotional, financial and perhaps self-belief and credibility too. Professional reputation may also be affected. In our experience, those most vulnerable to such a discontinuity are often the employees who:
When your employment relationship is a healthy, reciprocal, ‘through sickness and health’ one, the years of mutual sacrifice and commitment can make it much stronger. However, the employment relationship can be far more risky when your employer (the organisation) doesn’t feel the same way about you, akin to professing your eternal love to someone who only wants you for your immediate skills... Indeed, even if you have a strong relationship with your manager(s), this can be overridden by short-term organisational factors.
So, if you have all your eggs in one employment basket and as a result are at risk of being vulnerable in this way, and you take away only one thought from this article, please remember that less loyalty can be a good risk management/reduction strategy i.e. placing your eggs in different baskets. Read more to see why.