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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

How would you describe your career?

As so often happens to me, I had the experience of two random events combining themselves into a new thought pattern in my head last week. I don't go looking for it to happen - it just does. 

The first was from a recent conversation with a colleague who had just read my post "Who's Managing your Headroom" (28th August) and sharing that, whilst he thought it was funny, he recognised the metaphor of "running out of headroom" as a critical incident for his thinking about his own career.

The discussion about his career that followed stayed in my head for a while to be joined by the second event at the weekend... We were at a delightful party for the daughter of a family friend to celebrate her 21st birthday. Katie is the same age as my own daughter and they have been great friends since pre-school days.

The party was a joyful event, tinged with more than a touch of nostalgia as we witnessed the positive effects of those passing years on the beautiful vibrant young as they prepared for graduation and their chosen careers, and the not-so-positive effects on our parental group as we approach retirement from ours!

I was struck, not only by the unoriginal thought of how quickly time passes, but also to ponder on why a career is called a career?

As a word it has an alternative connotation of something that is out of control, frantic and random in direction - like a detached snowbard on a steep ski run careering down to the bottom, (or a people-carrier driving at speed towards a low-tunnel with insufficient headroom?) It's an unmanaged process that is both dangerous and with great risk. I reflected on how I would describe my own working life if it wasn't to include the notion of a "career".

After over 20 years as a free-lancing consultant, I settled on "joyful gambol" in the field of coaching, learning and development. (I am acutely aware that this could also serve as a homophonic "joyful gamble" - which would also be true!)

So - my question is - how would you describe your career?

I'd love to know.