Managing Career Aspirations

Managing Career Aspirations

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was a reader who looks a lot like you. You were offered a full-time, permanent job just before you graduated from university. It was a great job and you felt very competent and capable of, not only doing the work, but getting the work completed on a timely basis. Within three years you had completely mastered every aspect of your job. One day you were invited into your manager’s office for a chat. The manager explained that now it was time for you to assume more responsibilities. There was a new job being created in the department that you would be a perfect fit for. It would mean a wonderful opportunity to broaden the scope of your work and you would learn a lot. Of course, it would pay more and provide an increase in other benefits. Would you like this new job?

Isn’t this a lovely fairy tale? The sad part is that we still have employees who believe this should be their story. I don’t understand how we are raising young people who are so out of touch with reality but that’s a topic for another day.

The reality is that no matter how well you do in university, no matter what program you undertake, no matter how community minded or nice you are, there are no guarantees of a full-time, permanent job when you graduate. There are some organizations who will welcome you with open arms but you may not like much about the job. Often these jobs are sales jobs where there is a lot of turnover, hence their desire and need for fresh prospects and their network of friends/potential clients!

Most of us will work part-time and/or on a temporary/term basis for what will seem like an endless period of time. We will not make enough money to make up for all the years we worked only to pay for our university tuition. We will have to work hard to get these part-time, temporary or term jobs.

If we are lucky – yes, good luck and not good management – we will have picked the education and experiences that will get us into the door of an organization we want to work for. We will have to have just the right amount of education – not too much and not too little.

There will be surprises when we start working “in our field”, surprises that no one ever told us about, surprises that make us realize we just didn’t know what we were getting into when we chose this field. Little nasty surprises that make us want to turn around and go back from where we came from, but no, we have bills to pay. The shock and disappointment from the surprises will diminish over time for most of us.

For those who refuse to let go of the fairy tale, they will apply for vacant positions when they are posted, whether they are qualified or not. I read a recent article that claimed that of the people surveyed, two thirds claimed they are “out of their depth” in their job and they were terrified that their boss would find out! Oh my – talk about fake it until you make it!

Candidates who feel entitled won’t put a lot of effort into their resume and cover letter because they know that they deserve this job and all they have to do is throw their hat in the ring. They often have an over-inflated view of their qualifications. Should they get an invitation to the selection process, they won’t waste any of their time to prepare for the interview. And when they are not offered the job, they will be surprised and offended. It will be up to someone else to try explaining to them, probably not for the first time, that their fairy tale is not coming true. This may be your job. How to do this in a kind and loving way?

Many of our young people do not know failure.  They may have never acknowledged that they truly failed at anything they have done. They may have not failed a grade when they should have as everyone in their class was always moved forward into the next grade at the end of the year. They may have received awards, not for excellence, but rather for participation. They may have never been told no, consistently, that no means no. They may think they are special and entitled. Their parents may have been telling them this all along. Their employer may have told them this to get them to accept the job offer. And you are the one who is now telling them that they are not.

Think about how you would like to be told this? Again, it is much easier to hear “bad” news from another if you have a strong relationship with them, and you know, like and trust them. This is not likely if this is a temporary or term position and you have not been around for very long.

I would want you to start the conversation with language that will help me feel safe with you. Positive comments on my performance or behaviours generally are a good place to start, being as specific to me as you can. Don’t spend too much time here. I would want you to give me the bad news fairly quickly. And I want you to follow the bad news up with some suggestions of what I can do to ensure this doesn’t happen again. This may include suggestions of ways that I can get more related experience or courses I can take or skills or behaviours I need to learn or develop my expertise in. I need to have as much information as I possibly can about the changes I need to make.

It’s actually being kind when you dash my hopes thoroughly. It’s being kind when you catch me faking it – it will encourage me to stop immediately. I need to hear this truth. Feeling like I am out of my depth in my current job has been stressful for me.

It would be great if you would then raise my hopes up again. If you are in a position to help me, please offer me that. If not, get me thinking about people who can help me. Remind me that, at the end of the day, it is my responsibility to learn what employers are looking for and then go out and develop those skills, abilities, behaviours and knowledge. It will be hard work but if I persevere, I will be successful. Remind me that my failure to be awarded this job has also been the opportunity to learn what I need to do differently. This failure will only truly be a failure if I fail to learn from it.

Finally ask me what I have learned. Ask me what my next steps are. Listen to me. Express your confidence in my success. Wish me luck.

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