Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A New Year, A New Direction for Your Career?

(Cross-posted with the TC Manager blog.)

OK—The new year may be a few weeks old at this point, but January is a good time to start plotting a career change (Workplace Shaman: 'Tis the season to think about career change, Mary Pearson, Financial Post , December 18, 2009,http://www.financialpost.com/careers/story.html?id=2356120).

Some things to think about as you do so.

Don’t let your age limit your opportunities. As Pearson reports—let Susan Boyle serve as your inspiration.

Furthermore, evidence is mounting that the perception of older workers as deficient is a myth (The Myth of the Deficient Older Employee, New York Times 9th Annual Year in Ideas Supplement, December 13, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/projects/magazine/ideas/2009/?ex=1276059600&en=3315a37210ca3555&ei=5087&WT.mc_id=GN-D-I-NYT-MOD-MOD-M127-ROS-1209-HDR&WT.mc_ev=click#business-1).

(On the other hand, don’t fool yourself—age-ism exists (see my September 2009 article in Intercom.)

Don’t try to be a celebrity—just try to do something well, Pearson advises. Recognition will follow.

She adds that people need to define success on their own terms—the success you seek might not come from your job; it might come from some other sphere of your life.

Honestly assess the likelihood of your plans. To do so, sometimes you might benefit from the guidance of a mentor— a more experienced person who helps a less-experienced one (Finding the Right Mentor Can Bolster a Career, Associated Press, New York Times, December 28, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/12/28/business/AP-US-Your-Career-Mentoring.html?_r=1). More than open doors and encourage you, they can help you honestly assess your skills and abilities and suggest ways you to address those skills that need development.

If it’s new skills you need—consider education (I’m a professor—I have to say that). Consider some of these exciting new masters degrees and new twists on existing ones:

  • Specialized MBAs, such as ones for clergy (Specialized M.B.A.’s: The Business of Zeroing In, Nancy Hass, New York Times, December 29, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/education/edlife/03mba.html?ref=edlife) and an MBA for aviation industry workers (like the one at Concordia’s John Molson School)
  • Social computing (New Media: The Interactive Entrepreneur, Brian Stetler, New York Times, December 29, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/education/edlife/03socialnetwork-t.html?ref=edlife), such as degrees in social and interactive media
  • Education leadership degrees that combine both education and management courses (some taught in conjunction with them) (Education Leadership: Skills to Fix Failing Schools, Laura Pappano, New York Times, December 29, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/education/edlife/03educ.html?ref=edlife) (apparently, these degrees are really hot—Harvard’s first class had far more applicants than spaces)
  • Narrative medicine (Narrative Medicine: Learning to Listen, Gina Kolata, New York Times, December 29, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/education/edlife/03narrative.html?ref=edlife), which explores uses of storytelling to get a sense of a “whole” patient so he or she can be treated holistically rather than symptomatically.
And don’t forget--there's an educational technology degree at Concordia University in Montreal (hey—it’s a good program, why shouldn’t I plug it—there’s still time to apply).

Be prepared for hard work. If your experience is similar to mine, when I transitioned from working in industry to an academic career, the transition is slow, painful, and hard. Roadblocks will exist. Some will be imagined—others will be real.

Celebrate one success at a time. In those instances, remind yourself why you’re doing this, focus on the interim rewards you’re receiving, and don’t forget to celebrate the intermediate milestones along the way. They provide tangible evidence that you’re making progress on the challenging path you’ve chosen.

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