What’s the Lesson?

Chasity  -  Aug 19, 2011  -  No Comments

When mentoring high performers, it’s important to help the individual explore all of their options. Sometimes a career change is in order. How can you help these individuals adjust their career to something more fitting, yet still keep them in the organization?

Today’s guest post from Kim Ratcliff offers managers and mentors some terrific ways to nurture and help emerging leaders make good decisions about their career. While Kim’s story ended with a departure from her company, you may learn some lessons from her experience that can help keep good people within your organization.

What is the Lesson?
by Kim Ratcliff

A mentor of mine repeatedly asks me: “What is the lesson?” It’s an annoying question that frustrates me every time, but it points me in the right direction at turning points that feel challenging. Career change is usually a time for helpful yet difficult lessons.

Case in point: About seven years ago, I was struggling in my career. I’d been in the same place for seven years and felt like I was treading water. In the process of making the decision to leave, I shared my thoughts a bit too publicly.

In other words, I fast-forwarded a change process in my career without thinking through the consequences. It was a painful time for me, but looking back I can see how it was a necessary and helpful push into the future.

My mentor happened to work with me at the time, and she was a helpful resource in making me stay clear as I learned along the way. Here’s my own version of “the lesson” that my mentor encouraged me to take in:

1. Know thyself. Or, put another way, don’t snow thyself. Everyone is capable of stretching the truth or sidestepping it. Straying from reality will take you into dangerous territory. Be clear about and stay true to your own values, and the choices you make will reflect them.

2. Keep close friends (and friends close) and listen when they question you. Trust the counsel of your allies, even when it’s hard to hear.

3. Before you make a change, consider the short- and long-term consequences. Think through all of them and imagine yourself there. While changing can be cathartic in the moment, it may not feel that way after a few years. Think before you leap. Conversely, sometimes slow change creates needless pain over time. Better to yank off the band-aid than to draw out the agony.

4. Seek out evidence that will help you to “learn from the lesson.” If you get past an obstacle and it was just by luck, you’re going to run into that obstacle again. Guaranteed. So save yourself some heartache and learn it the first time, even if the lesson is painful.

If you are mentoring someone who is pondering a career change, use these pointers to help guide them in a direction that is best for them – and the company.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to change careers, either within your organization or elsewhere?

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