Career Coaching
İSam Weber

Many people are unfulfilled in their work life. We spend most of our waking lives at work, yet that is often the least fulfilling part of our lives. Working without passion and fulfillment can lead to a life of stagnation, unhappiness and even clinical depression.

Like many other things in life there is a cycle to working. If you understand the cycle it becomes possible to manage your career.

Learning & Skill Development

All of us start our first jobs at the bottom of a steep learning curve. Fresh out of school or tertiary education we soon realise that there is much to learn about how the real world functions.

We enter the job market as "unconscious incompetents", meaning that we don't realise how much there is to learn.

Within a short period we become "conscious incompetents" as we realise exactly what it takes to be successful at our chosen job. This often comes as a rude awakening and can shake our self-confidence. 

As we learn from our colleagues and company training courses we move into the next stage: "conscious competency". During this stage we have mastered most of the skills required to be effective workers. We understand what is required and consciously apply our skills. As we recognise our competency we recover self-confidence.

The last stage of "unconscious competence" is reached as we become veterans at the job, completely familiar with and effective at every aspect of the job, with a comprehensive understanding of how the job fits into the rest of the organisation. In this stage we also understand how our job affects others in the organisation and we are ready to mentor newcomers.

Effective managers recognise these four stages and adjust their leadership as their subordinates progress. This is especially important in striking an appropriate balance between giving direct instructions (appropriate during the first two stages) and taking a more hands-off, supportive approach (appropriate to the latter two stages). 
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With this period of learning and skills development under our belts, we enter the "comfort zone" phase. We understand the requirements of our job. We have carved a niche for ourselves in the company. We have earned the respect of colleagues. There are few surprises left. Under these conditions it is easy to become complacent.

Many people get stuck in this phase of the Work Life Cycle. By nature we tend to associate change with trauma and thus to avoid it. As we grow older we tend to become increasingly risk averse. This is compounded by a tight economic climate where organisational restructuring and resultant retrenchments are the order of the day. 
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Triggering Event

Almost inevitably something will happen to disturb the equilibrium of the Plateau Phase. This can be a traumatic event such as retrenchment, or a positive event such as a promotion. It can be a work related event or something that primarily affects our personal life, such as the end of a relationship or a spiritual awakening.  Whatever the triggering event, it brings us face to face with the need to change.

Dr Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined the stages of dealing with change as follows:

Shock / Surprise:

When faced with a significant change in our lives, the first response is one of numbness. Think of TV footage of earthquake survivors wandering aimlessly through the debris and you will understand how this response would apply under extreme circumstances. 


As the initial shock wears off disbelief sets in ("How can this happen to me?"). We find it difficult to accept that our lives can be so intimately and unexpectedly affected.


During this stage we try to find a way to circumvent the change. It is during the bargaining stage that we will often make promises to God if only He helps us through this crisis.


This is the lowest part of the process of dealing with change. During this stage our energy levels plummet as we finally confront and acknowledge the triggering event and its consequences. While this is possibly the most difficult stage of dealing with change (and the one where people most often become stuck), it is also positive in that we face up to the change for the first time.


Here energy levels slowly start to normalise. We begin to see the possibility of reconstructing our lives under the new conditions. Only once we have reached this stage of the process of dealing with change can we move into the next phase of the Work Life Cycle.
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Taking Stock

This is ideally a period of introspection and self-analysis. Often this is neglected, thus leading to a continuing feeling of unfulfilment and disenchantment. Because life is not static it is however, critical for us to periodically review all the aspects of our lives and how we manage our circumstances. It is especially during this phase that keeping a journal, even if you don't make entries every day, is very helpful.

Taking stock should include a restatement of your personal value system and a review of how both your values and your circumstances align with your perceived life purpose. It is also helpful to take a holistic view of your health - physical, emotional, mental and spiritual - and to examine any addictions that may be present in your life.

On the professional front, review your job and career satisfaction. Don't be limited by the mythical restrictions of doing only what you have past experience of, or your age. While taking stock it is helpful to daydream a bit and to define your ideal life.  
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Taking Charge

As a result of taking stock you should have a renewed and improved understanding of yourself. You should now be able to set clear, measurable and realistic goals. Define the steps required to reach each goal and set realistic deadlines. Consider what you will need to achieve each goal. Enlist help if necessary.

During this phase it is vital to be aware of your own attitude. Banish negative thoughts and influences from your life. Focus on maintaining and building self-esteem. 
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Renewal refers to the period between setting your goals and reaching them. It is important not to be sidetracked by obstacles. Rather use them as opportunities to review your goals, change them if necessary, re-commit to reaching them. Practice persistence during this phase. Techniques such as visualisation and affirmation are helpful during this time.

Once you reach your goal, be it a new job, a new career, or just a new project, you move into a new period of learning and skill development. As you continue to develop in awareness and alignment you ensure that you are living your best life, a life of meaning and fulfilment. Remember, you only have the one.
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