When I was in my 20’s I experienced two wake up calls that continue to influence the way I see careers – mine own career and the careers of those I support. I’ll share one of these wake up calls today…and will share the other in the months to come.
Scenario #1: My Father’s Career Story
While I was in college and graduate school studying the psychology of the workplace (Industrial/Organizational Psychology), I realized that my Dad was struggling with his career. He had been selected to head up an internal audit of the research organization where he’d spent his entire career, first as a scientific technical expert and later as the head of a division and a member of the Director’s Office. My father was known for his way of thinking – he could take a lot of information and synthesize it in a way that made sense in an elegant, streamlined way. This role seemed like a perfect fit for him.
When he and his team delivered their observations and conclusions about the state of the organization and its future, management didn’t like what they heard. Basically they shot the messenger and he was sidelined for the rest of his career, pushed off into a corner in a role that didn’t have much clout, required a lot of travel, and kept him out of the way.
He felt stifled. After he died I learned from my Mom that he dreamed of going back to school to get a degree in Psychology. He wanted to understand human behavior in a deeper way. Unfortunately his logical, scientific mind and his role as the family’s primary breadwinner kept him from acting on his desire.
Instead he did the job he was given to the best of his ability, as was his way. But he wasn’t challenged by what he did, which is a shame for a man who had so much to give the organization that he believed in so strongly. I think the hardest part for him was watching as the organization stepped into the landmines he had forecast years before. He felt stuck.
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