Posts Tagged ‘challenges’

When I Grow Up : Career Guidance

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Yesterday I met an old school friend for the first time since we were very young adults. Now that we are much older and our careers are well and truly established, it was interesting to talk about how our lives have turned out, and how we both got to where we are now.

My friend David McCaughan is at the top of his game. He is a senior executive for a major, world-wide advertising & marketing agency. At high school, we both studied Ancient History, and were in the school debating team, and when David left school, the first decade of his working life was spent working as a childrens’ story-teller in a public library. At school, David had a clear intelligence and a sophisticated wit, but back then, nobody thought to tell him that advertising was a career choice he could or should pursue, let alone excel at. Looking back though, I can see that advertising was a natural fit for him. But he came to it circuitously.

Finding a natural fit is what career guidance is all about. A natural career fit will almost certainly ensure a successful career and happy life.

As we retold our stories and recounted our lives since school, one thing David and I have in common was very clear: we’ve both had interesting lives in which we’ve been prepared to explore and meander. We’ve been willing to go out and see. I’ve noticed this before in the lives of other successful and happy people. One of the advantages of middle age is that you get to see how things turned out, and over and over again I’ve seen that the most successful and apparently satisfied and happy of my old friends are the ones who were prepared to see new places and try new things.

Here are some of the things that seem to produce a successful career and life:

Do what you are good at

Even at school, David was always good at talking and story telling. He’s also intelligent and good at joining dots, which led him to study Political Science. He says that story-telling in the library for 10 years and studying Ancient History at school underlie his work in advertising & marketing. It makes sense: advertising is about telling a story and joining dots (seeing connections & solving problems).

If you are good at maths, then you should pursue that, if you cook really well then you should cook. If you are good at sport, then follow that.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll end up in your first, perhaps most obvious job choice, but it sets you on a path that is natural and more effortless for you to pursue.

Do what you like to do

This should closely follow the previous point. It makes sense that most people automatically like what they are good at, because they receive positive feedback both from the task and other people.

But don’t do something only because you are good at it. If you are good at maths, but hate it, don’t become an accountant just because everyone tells you how good you are with numbers.

If you are engaged by your work, then you are more than halfway there to a successful career. You’ve got to love what you do if you want a successful career and happy life.

Don’t be afraid to go out and try things

How will you know what’s out there unless you go and have a look? How will you know what you are good at? Experiment, try new things, meet people, explore, discover and follow your nose.

Be prepared to play the long game

In life, as in theatre and sport, it’s all about the timing. Trying new jobs, exploring and building up experience takes time. Be prepared for that. You need to develop tenacity and a long-term focus.

Your career will be measured by where you find yourself at 50 and 60, and what you have achieved and what you have passed on to other people. Nobody will care or remember if you drove a fancy car when you were thirty, or got a promotion, and the history books or the company records certainly won’t record it.

Time your run.


My friend David and I are still the same people we were at school, although older and wiser. And this is the point. Our career and life choices followed who we already were, and our experience heightened and informed that. It’s no surprise to me that David is a very successful human being – he always was. He had the sense to follow his talents and his instincts, and to go out and see.

Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

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NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Genesis Means Create: The Creativity & Innovation Imperative

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

The word “genesis” means create or come into being. Creating things is what human beings can’t help but do. We are driven to it.

Creativity is at the heart of what it means to be human. Creativity informs everything we do and as a species it’s our overwhelming imperative. We invent, produce, have ideas and think of solutions. And never stop.

Everything we do is based on our essential creativity and nothing would happen if we had no creativity.

In the modern world of business and organizations, innovation and adaptability are both highly praised and greatly desired. Especially in uncertain economic and fast changing times, the need for innovation and adaptability is becoming one of our highest priorities, because if we have access to and control of these then we can adapt quickly, stay afloat or ahead of the game and be ready for all challenges.

Creativity is the raw material of innovation. Innovation is simply creativity put into action. Creativity is necessary not only for innovation but also for critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, teamwork and almost every area of life we most highly value.

In business and the workplace, creativity is the most powerful tool an individual or organization can have and across the world there is a growing recognition that we must muster our individual and collective creativity and learn to innovate or perish. An IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs cited in the Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis in July 2010, identified creativity as the number 1 “leadership compentency” of the future.

If we want to be lean and mean, if we want to continue to find successful and elegant solutions, if we want to continue and increase technological development, if we want to make good decisions and think clearly and well, if we want to re-define and re-invent the way we use natural resources, if we want to feed the world’s expanding population, then we need to recognise and apply our creativity as expediently, intentionally and intelligently as we can.

There is no more time to play silly games with our creativity: no more time to pretend that it only belongs in the arts, that it is not rational or scientific, that it’s what other people have and not us. Creativity has to be recognized, embraced and applied universally and well.

The organisations and individuals who have recognized this are already ahead of the game. There is nothing tricky or mysterious about creativity. It’s what’s inside us all.

We can all generate more good ideas and good decisions that invent the future.

Lynette Jensen

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NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Staying Afloat: Boats & Analogies

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I was inspired to get a boat by Virgin boss Richard Branson, when I read in his autobiography about the London canal boat he lived aboard, and later held meetings on. Holding meetings aboard a colourful old wooden boat sounds like a good idea to me, because I like the idea of making work as satisfying and rich as the rest of life, so that life becomes integrated and the “work-life balance” is almost completely imperceptible.

So I bought Great Train Robber Ronald Bigg’s old boat, Aphrodite, and had her transported to my sister’s property on Oxley Island in NSW, where she currently bobs away at the end of my sister’s jetty.

The only problem is, she’s on the Manning River, which is four hours drive north of Sydney, so I can’t really hold meetings there, although if you are up for a long drive, I’ll happily entertain you when you get there.

Instead of having meetings, I spend my days on board watching birds and dolphins, listening to the gentle sloshing of the water, restoring and repairing, writing, reading books, and thinking. I have never been in an atmosphere of such bliss and inspiration before in my life.

What I like most about my boat is the metaphor for life and work she provides. “Staying afloat” has a whole new literal meaning. And to literally, physically, face up to that challenge, through storms, rain, floods and wind is both humbling and cathartic. No matter how big my ego might get, no matter how smart I think I am, or how philosophical my thoughts and revelations might be, there is just no way I can ignore the simple truth of physics and the weather. If the boat gets a hole, if you don’t plug it, you’ll sink. If the pumps fail, and water builds up, you’ll sink. If there isn’t enough sun to keep the batteries that run the pumps going, you’ll sink.

Like King Canute, and the Dutch Boy who held his finger in the dyke, human beings and their egos cannot overcome physics, we just have to learn to live with it and manage it.

I find this constant lesson Aphrodite teaches me enormously helpful. We use lots of catch phrases in business and the general community, especially sports analogies, but to constantly face the challenge of keeping an old wooden boat afloat is to really understand the underlying literal meaning of the metaphors, and therefore what life is all about. It’s why some companies send their staff away to boot camps, or to climb mountains, or to fly on the trapeze – they believe that the physical challenge and hardship will make them generalize into other areas of life, particularly work, and help them to face up to challenges and learn to manage and over-come them, often by learning to work together in “teams”.

But I don’t have to do that, I just have to live aboard my boat for a few days.

While I wish I could invite you to meetings aboard Aphrodite, perhaps I have a better thing. Aphrodite provided a place for Ronald Biggs to hide out in Port Adelaide, but for me she provides a place to learn to stay afloat – literally and metaphorically.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.