In this post I’m going to detail a little activity that I thought up while I was away on holiday. I haven’t run this with anyone yet, but I thought I’d put it out there to see what people think. If anyone wants to run it – go ahead, just let me know how it goes.
The activity is designed to get people thinking about their career and making some plans, but it is also designed to encourage people to think about their career as a series of opportunities and choices rather than a linear progression.
The career searchlight
Many people look out at their career and see only a foggy void. This activity is designed to illuminate the void with a searchlight. The career searchlight asks people to look into their own future and to speculate about how their career might progress. They might do this in a very uninformed way using pure guesswork, or they might use the career searchlight to help structure some of their thinking after a period of studying the labour market and patterns of progression in the area in which they are interested. The career searchlight can be used either to expand the curiosity and horizons of the uninformed or to help the informed to make decisions and consider career development strategies.
The searchlight is based on the idea that from each job you will have a choice to make, moving from your current job to either this or that as your next job. The searchlight represents each job, or possible job, as a box and then divides each box into two as you move on to your next job. Obviously this is an abstraction, in fact we have many more choices, but keeping it to two choices ensures that the activity stays manageable across your next six moves. It is also worth noting that not all choices are equal, for some the choice may only be between one poorly paid dull job and another, but the searchlight hopefully encourages people to think long term and to consider whether (or not) either of these poor choices offer more over the longer term.
So the activity is simply to fill in each box. Start with your current job and then imagine two jobs that you might get after that. Then look at those jobs and imagine two jobs that you might get from each. Keep going until you have filled up all 63 jobs on the searchlight. You might want to keep the following sort of things in mind as you fill it in.
- Try and make each job a realistic move from the last. You might want to make one of the two jobs a bigger stretch than the other.
- Remember that there is usually more than one route to the same place. You may find that the same jobs appear in more than one pathway. This is fine – but try not to let all of the pathways end up identical. Have some that take you off in different directions to see what might be down that path.
- Remember you can move up, down and sideways in your career. It would be unusual if all five moves were promotions.
- If you get stuck google up some options or just make a guess. Remember this isn’t a legally binding document it is just an exercise to get you thinking.
You may have noticed that the searchlight is only illuminating a relatively small section of the darkness. If you assume that the darkness surrounds you what you can see with the aid of the searchlight is small. It would be worth speculating on what might be out there in the places that you can’t see. My answers to this question might include:
- Unexpected opportunity
- Changes in family or caring responsibilities
- Technological changes
- Changes in your profession or in your sector
- etc, etc
All of these factors are likely to turn the searchlight and to illuminate different possibilities and career paths. You might want to experiment filling in the searchlight with a “what if” scenario in mind. e.g. “What if my industry collapses? What would the career searchlight be showing me then?” However, it is also important to realise that you can’t plan for everything and that events might take you out of the well lit pathway that you have planned and move you into the darkness. At this point you need to shine the searchlight again and look at what might lay ahead once more.
So there you go, have a look at the career searchlight and see if you find it useful. Is it something that you can use or something that you could use with students/clients that you work with?
Let me know… if people are keen I might play with it a bit more and see if I can develop it further.