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PUTTING THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE
THE FIVE PREMISES
The career transition process advocated in this book and used effectively by the many managers who have attended the Harvard Business School Club of New York Career Seminar is based on five premises.
The Process Is Much of the Prize
In the self-awareness portions of the transition process, you will review your patterns, articulate your goals, and reacquaint yourself with your abilities. New insights will change the way you see yourself in relation to your environment. The process of defining your product specifications also will help you form a picture of yourselfnot the ideal you or the person that others wish you to be, but the real you. Having a clear sense of those product attributes allows you to present yourself to other people in a highly effective and credible manner.
Each Person Is a Unique Being in a Unique Situation
This premise precludes the idea of applying one set of rules to every individual or situation. In the HBSCNY Career Seminar we tell attendees that although they may have come for answers, our role is to help them identify the questions and issues most critical to their respective situations. This approach works, time and time again, because once it is allowed to function, a manager's internal guidance system is wise and capable.
I came to the Career Seminar to find a job and came away with a whole new concept of successin terms things that really mattered to me rather than others. In my last job I had a lot o f success in terms o f company recognition but virtually nosatisfaction. Now I have a much better handle on what's important to me.MANAGING DIRECTOR, CONSULTING, HBS '84
Career Difficulties Are Often an Invitation to Change
Most people have a hand in creating their career difficulties. Such selfsabotaging behavior is often obvious to everyone except the person involved, who may vehemently deny playing any role in his or her misfortunes. Consider this comment by a manager recalling an early stage in his professional life:
I had problems with my boss's boss. I had been put in charge of the administration of the annual meeting, a big show. It's not the kind of work that turns me on, and I didn't take it seriously. No one ever told me this was very important. I felt it was just an administrative thing to be doneto be delegatedso I could do the important stuff, and I guess I didn't give it the attention I should have. This guy put out the word that he wanted me out o f there. I felt very screwed: I'm smart, I'm bright, and I was cut off I think this guy made a big mistake.
DIVISION PRESIDENT, MANUFACTURING, HBS '74
The annual meeting was clearly important to several very influential senior managers, and yet this intelligent manager misread, or ignored, their signals.
Such behavior represents cues from your internal guidance system that you need to either change how you cope with the workplace or change where you work. When heeded at an early stage, these cues can prompt you to make changes in a relatively painless and constructive manner. When ignored, such cues become increasingly insistent, until inappropriate behavior creates a crisis situation that is impossible to ignore.
My boss screamed mercilessly at anyone who provoked his anger. I found him to be a very threatening individual, and anticipating his tirades made me very jumpy. In retrospect 1 lived out a self-fulfilling prophecy: his expectation that I would make a mistake became my expectation, and eventually I did make a mistake. One too many sets of figures didn't add up, and the boss told me that he had had it with me. I don't recall that I made even one mathematical mistake while I was at my former job.
VP, COMMERCIAL BANKING, HBS '65
Career difficulties can lead you to resolve unhealthy situations. Many people look back at career crises and admit, "Even though it involved a lot of pain, it was the best thing that could have happened to me."
Your Intuition Has a Role to Play in the Career Process and inYour Next Job
Some managers find this precept difficult to accept. Managers who are highly skilled in logical and analytical thinking are most comfortable with a career process that draws exclusively on those analytical skills. But developing your intuitive skills is the challenge at hand. Acknowledging your intuition's existence and its legitimate role in decision making is the first step. Your career process will yield far more if your logical and intuitive powers work hand in hand. And once in the new job, that combination will continue to be a very effective management tool.
My rational thought process ran my life for twenty-five years while I successfully ignored what my gut instinct was trying to tell me. Finally I tripped myself up and was left with no choice but to listen. At first I had difficulty believing and trusting that internal guidance system you talk about in the Seminar, but then I could see that when I used it things fell into place. Now I am careful to keep my intellect and intuition in balance.
VICE PRESIDENT, WALL STREET, HBS '71
You Already Have the Skills to Find the Right Road
The search for the right career move is not as mysterious as it might seem.
- You can define the product: you. This is not the superficial you but the entire you, including your talents, attributes, values, motivations, preferences, and disinclinations.
- You can define the market: the industries, fields, or functions that are a good fit for the entire you and offer sufficiently good odds of entry and success.
- You can design and carry out a classic marketing campaign for the product: you. It may take some time and involve some repositioning or trading off of nonessentials. But a successful campaign is something well within your abilities and experience to accomplish.