Chapter 6: Rule Two: Follow A Proven Plan

It’s not unusual for career coaches to offer a trial lesson. This gives potential clients and the coach a risk-free opportunity of discovering if they can work together. When discussing my ‘just five rules’ coaching model, it was rule two that stimulated the most questions. Here are some examples:

  • “What is this ‘proven plan’?”
  • “Proven by whom?”
  • “What evidence is there?”
  • “Citations required.”

Many of these people worked in IT and were well-versed in deconstructing technical standards and the ways in which vendors went about implementing them. Their jobs required lots of left-brained, rational, logical analysis.

Irony abounds here because I think that the goal of an effective coaching relationship is to empower clients to answer their own questions. The coaching model is therefore but a framework, a psychological architecture, in which to engage in empathetic, meaningful and, yes, challenging conversations. So, although rule two is indeed to ‘follow a proven plan,’ I am not claiming to have some secret success formula for career change. There is no such thing, in my humble opinion. The objective of that rule, in conjunction with the other four, is to help the client discover a plan that works for them. In effect, they learn to trust themselves enough to follow the proof of their own actions and results. The plan is proven to the extent that it evolves to fit what an individual is capable of achieving and being and doing within the overall structure of their life, circumstances, and opportunities.

The too long, didn’t read (tl;dr) version? ‘Your mileage may vary.’

Career Anchors – Do You Know what Yours Are?

In 2005, I attended a one-day ‘My Career’ course, offered as part of a ‘Learning Journey’ career development program by my employer.

The first module in the course was about ‘Understanding Me.’ We began with a ‘career line’ exercise to chart the apparent ups and downs in our careers over time in the form of a simple hand drawn graph.

We then discussed what made us choose these various career paths. With about fifteen students in the room, there seemed to be fifteen different reasons – mixed in with a lot of good and bad luck.

The instructor then introduced Professor Edgar Schein’s work on ‘career anchors’ – and how his theory could help us choose career paths that better fit our personality makeup and interests.

We took a paper version of Prof. Schein’s career anchors test. Here were my top three anchors from the eight possible anchors:

  1. Lifestyle.
  2. Sense of Service / Dedication To a Cause.
  3. Technical / Functional Competence.

I was in my early forties, and at ‘peak IT career’ – that point where earnings and potential in a technical, non-supervisory role begin to slope downwards to eventual obsolescence and retirement. Of course, I had no intention of doing any such thing and I sensed that my top three anchors were telling me something was going to change.

After leaving the corporate world a few years later, I took the online version of the same career anchors test.

Here were my top three anchors as reported by the test in 2007:

  1. Entrepreneurial Creativity.
  2. Life Style.
  3. Autonomy / Independence.

The results came as part of a six-page report. I also downloaded a 72-page workbook written by Prof. Schein that went into additional detail on career anchors and their relationship with career development and the characteristics of jobs that attract, or are a good ‘match’, for our top anchors.

I found it remarkable how closely those career anchors reflected what I most wanted from my career journey. So, for me, Prof. Schein’s methodology provided great value and knowledge.

Exercise 14: Take Prof. Schein’s Career Anchors Self-Assessment

This is just a recommended option. There are other career assessments but I do not have much experience with them.

At the time of writing this book (May, 2016), the Career Anchors self assessment is available online through Wiley.

About Mark McClure

I guess it’s customary for an author’s brief biography to be in either the front or the rear of a book. I am going to break with that convention by adding here an edited, but still quite long, version of the ‘About Me’ page from a blog (markmccluretoday.com) I began in 2007.

The blog marked the launch of my second career change. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it started as an ‘online solopreneur’ and then morphed into a hybrid career with freelance writing, coaching and teaching as the three legs of my transition platform.

OK, here’s the bio. Lights, and ACTION!

“My name’s Mark McClure and I’ve followed a career themed around a love of learning and earning.

I started work as a science teacher in 1982. I must admit that a desire for more dosh (money) soon featured prominently in my twenty-something mind – once it dawned on me that skills in the classroom had little to do with how compensation was calculated. So, in 1987, I left school teaching and moved to England as a technical instructor in one of the ‘hot’ IT technologies at the time – minicomputer systems.

A ‘chance’ encounter in the spring of 1989 with a small ‘black box’ that some engineer had brazenly hooked up to the back of a minicomputer I was responsible for, led me to get curious about it. And in a matter of months, I was headhunted into the very same fast-growing Local Area Networking (LAN) Company that had designed one of the first Ethernet transceivers.

Those were heady and fun days and I had lots of opportunities to teach computer networking courses all over the globe. It was on one such trip to Japan when my personal and professional lives suddenly and beautifully intersected. This would eventually result in a move to Japan on a permanent basis – and I transferred to Tokyo in the early 1990s by planning for and then trusting in this unwritten vision statement: ‘Move to Japan – Build a Career – Start a Family.’

Aside from the risk of the ‘big one’ (earthquake), my experience of living and working in Tokyo has been enjoyable even though it is an enormous, expensive and overcrowded city. (January 2013 Update: Japan’s ‘3/11’ quake and tsunami disaster in 2011 was quite a shock to many Tokyoites and a blunt reminder of what geophysics and time have in store.)

It’s sometimes said that we teach most what we need to learn. In my case, I figured that I’d taught for long enough and it was time to put the learning into practice. In 1997, I did that by changing roles from IT educator to IT engineer. Still based in Tokyo but traveling throughout the Asia-Pacific Rim countries, I got to grips with various computer networking projects for a multinational electronics components manufacturer. A 1998 trip to their factories in China was my first exposure to how fast cities like Shanghai were expanding. There then followed a surprise layoff (Japanese-style) in the summer of 1999.

Fortunately, the Y2K and Nasdaq Tech stock manias intervened to keep me in Japan, and three months later a Wall Street Investment bank hired me. Lots of high-pressure projects, tight deadlines, late nights and long weekends. Those people paid the big bucks – and expected their pound of flesh.

While at the bank, the student in me came to the fore again. And so, with great support from my family and employer, I finally, at the 4th attempt, earned my Cisco CCIE certification (#10814) in December 2002. This was the ‘IT equivalent of the MBA’ – that’s the only way I can explain it to non-IT folks. It took a ton of money, time and effort but I wouldn’t have missed that number for the world.

As middle age marched on, an interest in personal development deepened and led me to study life, career and business coaching with the wonderful folks at the International Coaching Academy (ICA). I graduated from ICA’s certified professional coach program in mid-2006, and had ideas of pursuing a coaching role within the bank. However, the arrival of a global IT outsourcing project became the trigger for dramatically changing my career game – and I finally left in early 2007 ‘to pursue other interests.’

What’s next? Well, this career change is perhaps the most challenging. It takes me from the familiar roles and habits expected of an effective corporate employee to the ‘uncharted waters’ of what I have generically termed as an ‘internet business owner.’ My blog is one part of that internet business and initially acted as a spotlight for the coaching and mentoring products, services and knowledge that I believed would help others embarking on their own career change paths.

November 2012 update: The blog post – ‘Are Three Blogging Silos Enough?’ – outlines what I see as the path ahead. For readers interested in career change, over 200 posts dating from November 2007 will remain here to document that stage of my life’s journey. And my book on ‘the self-coached career change’ is taking form at justfiverules.com.

And what about this blog? While a freelance commercial writer’s work is both interesting and profitable – see samuraiwriter.com/blog for details about that aspect of my career transition – markmccluretoday.com is where I’ll explore my creative interests in reading, writing and publishing science fiction.”

Why Read This?

Congratulations if you read all the way to this point. I hope you got a sense of who I am and how my career changes and transitions have included elements of predictability and randomness. I was going to add ‘luck’ too, but I know now that ‘Laboring Under Correct Knowledge’ is really just another name for a self-coaching skill.

Exercise 15: About You

Now it’s your turn to write your own ‘About Me’ page. You don’t have to show it to anyone. In fact, I recommend that you keep it hidden away until the time is right and you are where you want to be. It’s nobody else’s business but yours, anyway.

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