This Is Careering

Around the time of my 40th birthday, I enjoyed a great conversation with my Dad about careers. My Dad had been a career civil servant, and regretted it. He liked the people, the work less so. So when the chance for early retirement came at age 58, he took it. Dad had enough of “Better the Devil you Know” (sorry Kylie), and he suggested to me I should take care and not fall into the same trap.

At the time of our conversation I had enjoyed a varied career in BT for the previous nine years. I liked the people (most of them), and the work which allowed me to enjoy a wide range of projects, problems and opportunities with lots of different customers and other outside groups. That said I had only the one employer, and thus the one employee experience for all this time. I wanted to know what it felt like to do other work, and work with other people. I began to want to do things differently.

Fast forward to 2011 and now I’ve worked for many more organisations. Small, large, local, national, global, public, private, not for profit. And everywhere I work I experience different cultures, methods and nuances all of which make me more valuable both in my self and for the people I serve. I love it. If BT had offered this kind of career partnership, well who knows, we might still be together? It strikes me as a very worthwhile way of developing people and organisations, in a mutually beneficial way – grow the market. Could it become a reality?

Yes it could.

Step forward Jon Ingham. I (and indeed many others) regard Jon as a human capital expert. He has recently put together a fantastic career partnerships hack for the Management Information Exchange (MIX). In summary Jon says:

Employment contracts don’t work.  Organisations can’t recruit the very best people if this is all they offer.  And they can’t retain these people effectively either.  The opportunity is to be a partner with a highly desired employee – and to offer them a relationship over their career.

So far my Dad and I agree. He goes on to say

At a high level, the problem is that we are treating people as resources (the term Human Resources says it all) – as tools to do a job.  But people don’t react well to being thought of as tools or resources and this has negative consequences on engagement and trust.

Absolutely. As I read Jon’s hack I felt like it had been written for me. And I believe many others who read it will feel the same way. Popping back to BT just for a minute, I believe they are now offering secondment type opportunities to help people develop outside the organisation and to help them experience other employment cultures, and Jon’s idea goes further than that.

In briefest summary, the career partnership idea involves getting people:

  • Recruited and onboarded at a point which is appropriate for both the individual and the organisation
  • Supported and developed whilst in employment
  • Exited at a point at which their development needs or career or personal interests require a move
  • Kept close to the organisation during the period during which they are working elsewhere (ready to be re-recruited and onboarded again at an appropriate point).

Yes this freed up method of working is not without challenges, and these are mainly around having the mindset to want to embark on such an exciting (that’s how I see it) project. I think this is a great way of helping the employer and the employee, and therefore the customer too.

I strongly recommend you pop over to MIX and read the whole piece. Jon’s idea is an entry for the MIX Human Capital M-Prize. I’m supporting Jon on this and if you like it I hope you will too. Well done Jon, your creative thinking will hopefully help many people to find more satisfaction and purpose in work.

Photo c/o Michael Gallacher bonus points for anyone who can spot the (easy I think) connection between the photo and the story.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “This Is Careering”

  1. Having done some thinking about this lately the feelings here resonate very well.

    Is one of the issues that we have to address to embrace this type of thinking about personal effectiveness? For someone to feel totally aligned with an organisation they need to be very clear about their goals. This makes me think that we spend so much time developing goal setting techniques for “business” benefit that we are missing the point somewhat!

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