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