Friday, March 26, 2004

A step along the path 

Seven years ago, I lost my job as part of major corporate downsizing exercise. How I dealt with that may be the subject of another blog post sometime, but overall it was a surprisingly positive experience. The timing however was particularly unfortunate. After years of feeling like a square peg in a round hole (engineering and management positions), I'd finally found something I really wanted to do - coaching people in a business context - and the opportunity to follow that path seemed to be taken away the moment after it appeared.

I knew I didn't want to carry on my old career but wanted to branch out into something new - maybe management training - so at the recommendation of the Head of Management Training in the company where I worked, I enrolled in a foundation course in counselling at evening classes. I also went through much self analysis; some of it formally structured exercises, some of it more loosely structured introspection. And in planning what to do next I found a strong desire to help others through this process of self-discovery, learning and growth - perhaps even being a companion on that road to finding their life's purpose.

I knew that this was something I couldn't just walk into. Not straight from unemployment into a role for which I had no training or experience - so I'd have to become employed again, and work myself sideways into that role.

It's taken seven years, but today after much groundwork I finally began to move forward on that path. Today I started on a training programme to become a part-time careers consultant within the organisation for which I now work. This isn't a new job, but an additional role within an existing job, spending perhaps a day every couple of weeks working one-to-one with internal clients helping them find their own answers to their career questions.

How did I get to be picked for this pilot programme? Fundamentally, one simple reason. I knew all along I wanted to do something like this, and that knowledge drove me to take every possible step to make it happen. I networked; I talked to people, made contacts, explored every avenue, and didn't stop exploring even when so many seemed to lead nowhere.

Those conversations didn't just help me move forward; they also kept the dream alive. Hearing myself speak about what I wanted helped build a clearer picture, and that in turn exerted a stronger pull on me; a circular reinforcement process almost creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I started today, to begin with I thought I might feel like a fish out of water - here I was, an engineer, the only delegate not from an HR related background, the other ten being from areas such as recruitment, training, HR operations. But by the end of the day, in the company of so many like-minded people, I felt like a fish who has finally made it back into the river after being stranded, gasping, on dry land for so long.

And there's another reason behind how I came to be there - that counselling course I took seven years ago may well be the factor tipped the balance in my favour and allowed a non-HR professional into the room.

As the song says, if you don't have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true?

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