Career Puzzles to Navigate: How to start putting the pieces together

Picture doing a 500 piece puzzle as a child. This could be a very challenging puzzle but you always had the colorful box that showed you how the puzzle would look upon completion but it was still tough. Now imagine you are given the same puzzle pieces but no picture to guide you! Or you may even wonder if you have all the pieces!

Navigating your career trajectory is now more than ever in your hands.  It is a puzzle that we are often left to work out on our own without knowing if we even have all the pieces, let alone a blueprint! Recently working with a group of working adults (ages 25-55) who are actively engaged in reflecting and navigating their careers (through taking a seminar I offer called Personal Strategic Planning) they are asked to do many activities during this 30 hour intense over 2 ½ week course.  The objective of the course is to breakdown the narrative or story we tell ourselves about our careers, our choices, then look at our personal data through multiple lenses and come up with a different story or narrative-one that is based now on our strengths as well as 7 other key factors. This semi-structured program results in powerful self-discovery.

The course is organized by our 8 Factor model or the Whole Person Model (for more see Briefly here is how the model works: each participant examines and collect data from each of the following 8 factors Career Development Cycle, Natural Abilities, Skills, Interests, Values, Family of Origin, Personal Style and Goals. This is accomplished through semi-structured exercises and group discussions to assist each participant into delving deeper into a specific factor and therefore their career choices. This process, time and time again over the past 15 years and hundreds of participants yields consistent and excellent results! Today, I wanted to mention just one activity that strikes me as quite significant!

One of the activities is to write a journal and reflect on the specific exercise or factor covered during the last 3 hr session. This gives each participant an opportunity to engage in reflection, in effect to share with themselves, as well as me on how they are putting the material together for themselves. In my (usually) nonjudgmental responses I try to encourage practical applications as well as looking and going beyond their usual narrative of their life. For instance, Sarah writes,

“Another key thing I learned in Thursday’s class was how I might, as I develop a better understanding of my abilities, interact with others differently or adapt my own behaviors to best suit the situation.  For example, if I were given an assignment yesterday to develop a relationship with the Managers within the departments I support…I would have a problem getting started because I would have primarily perceived it as a social interaction and a draining activity requiring vague and even unrealistic goals.  But today, understanding my strong Introversion, Idea Productivity, Spatial Relations Visualization and Rhythm Memory; I might approach it differently.  For example I might have a series of brief meetings rather than long meetings, I might brainstorm to look for unique ways to develop the relationship, think of a tangible way to measure the successes or create structure from the relationship and suggest planning a trip or hands-on meeting with the managers rather than just have conversations or e-mails with them.

This is a fabulous small example of the immediate major impact knowing one’s abilities can make. And, remember, your abilities are just a piece of the puzzle to help you navigate your career.