When I visited Malaysia a few months ago, I caught up with an old friend from my school days. I try to catch up with him whenever I’m back, and whilst having dinner, he shared with me a concern he had about his son. His son is 27, unemployed, has been educated, has a degree, but just doesn’t seem to have the energy, motivation or the drive to go out there and look for a job. His degree is in science, and of course, in a country like Malaysia where there’s high demand for young people and very low unemployment rates, it was a challenge to try to understand why this young man wasn’t actually getting out there and securing employment.
In the process of trying to understand the situation, I asked him different questions about his son. I’d met his son a few years ago and he seemed to me a very bright boy, so I was surprised that he wasn’t actually getting out there and getting a job. One of the things I asked, was if his son had ever had any career counselling. My friend responded by saying, ‘No, not really. It’s not something we do a lot of. Why is it important? How does it help?’ I shared my own story of how, in the early years of my career, I had been in a sales role, and I’d run sales offices around Australia, and then we had a recession in Australia in 1990.
I lost my job at that time, and I couldn’t, for the life of me, get another job. I was trying really hard but not being successful. Someone made the suggestion about career counselling, and I pursued it. I did a number of assessment tools and I found it was really useful in reframing where my strengths were and what my areas of interests were. In fact, it was from there that I made the choice to actually go back to school to finish my education, because I had left university without completing my degree. So I made the choice then to go back to university and finish my education. I then went on then to do my Master’s, which is how I came across the whole field of cross culture, and this led onto a Doctorate and my consultancy!
It shifted my work from being in sales and running sales teams to actually being a consultant. In fact, I became a consultant because initially I was freelancing as a trainer while I was still at university, and I thought I would get a ‘real job’ once I finished. However, I continued on, and this is now actually my 28th year as an independent consultant. The point I’m making here is that, as leaders, we often work with people in teams, and it’s important for us to actually help our team members reassess where they want to go. What’s important for them? And assist them in their career mapping.
It’s important for you as a leader to also assess where you are in the journey.
Take the time to consider ‘What gives me joy? How do I need to shift?’ A lot of us, when we become professionals, get to a certain age or stage in our life where we think to ourselves, ‘What else can I do? I’m already a professional. I’m good at what I do. Do I keep doing what I’m doing? Or how do I in fact change other aspects? Do I do less? Maybe create more time for hobbies, or do I learn other things? How do I expand my own repertoire?’
As a leader, how do you do that for yourself? Sometimes, as a professional, it’s easy to get lost. We get stuck and sometimes change is forced upon us. Then we need to reinvent.
Rather than having change forced upon us, it’s sometimes better to look at this ourselves. So that’s my reflection point for you. How do you reassess where you are in your career? Who helps you do that? And how do you help your teams reassess their careers?