I had the opportunity to connect with Linda Oestreich on LinkedIn recently. Linda is a writer and project manager, and has been a leader in the Society for Technical Communication. I had participated in a LI group discussion and one of the participants provided a link to a PowerPoint presentation Linda had developed for a STC gathering, entitled “Understanding Career Development.” In her presentation, Linda noted four stages of career development:
I’m always looking for ways to classify and categorize career paths. I can’t help it; it’s part of my DNA. One of my StrengthsFinder themes is Input – collecting information and adding it to the archives. So the four career stages Linda presented resonated with me as a general typology for describing our career paths.
We often hear that the traditional career path is obsolete; that instead, we can expect to have a number of careers during our working life. While I agree with the multiple career aspect, I think we do have distinct career paths and Linda’s model provides a good guide. Many of us, who have changed careers, rarely go back to the Apprentice level; and if we do, we progress much quicker along the path, in large part because of the maturity we’ve developed in the workplace.
Many of my Boomer clients find themselves at the Mentor and Visionary stages of their careers. These are challenging stages, as they tend to be outwardly focused – on developing opportunities for others and the organization – rather than self focused.
As we continue to develop in our careers, Boomers need to recognize where we are along our career path. Those of us who intend to stay in the workforce need to realize that the traditional management/decision-making roles may no longer be available to us. We will have to embrace the roles of Mentor and Visionary, focus less on ourselves and more on others: Relying less on our subject matter expertise; coaching younger workers in the development of their expertise; asking questions and providing insight that influences younger managers in their decision making. We will need to champion new ideas and processes that enhance the organization’s competitiveness; and ensure that key staff are not stagnating in unproductive projects.
We need to become the “wise men and women” of the organization, rather than its managers or bosses. We need to lead by influence, rather than by decision.
To be sure, organizations need to embrace these issues as well. Productive, future-focused organizations will recognize the value of their more senior workforce and will provide opportunities for its continued contributions. However, we know that change occurs at a glacial pace; and not all organizational leaders are enlightened about the value of their older workforce. So it will be up to us to influence them; to show them how we can be of value; to demonstrate how we can lead as mentors, coaches and visionaries.
So how do you see your progression in your career path? What strategies and tactics do you need to employ to be more of a Mentor and Visionary? How can you help convince the organization to recognize your value in these roles?