If we want to be professional in dealing with clients that come to us with the “what’s next?” question and assure high impact practices, we don’t want to stay shallow at the level of pocketbooks on personal coaching and jump to a list of obvious recommendations.
We first want to understand the meaning of the question and challenges that people who ask it face, then look for the science behind the challenge and figure out how it can help us, and only after that arrive at conclusion on the approach we can pursue to help the client. So, let’s start with the client who asks it and figure out why she asks the “what’s next?” question.
For many years I have been including a personal strategy conversation to my capstone classes in master’s programs, and I faced the “what’s next?” question in my coaching sessions and in my conversation with friends and friends’ children. I also discussed this issue with career and personal strategy coaches, recruiting professionals, internship program professionals, educational program directors interested in work-based learning practices — all of which target high-impact practices for their clients.
I tried to single out one group of people whom the personal strategy work helped most, and I couldn’t. There were people of both genders and different ages, starting a high school. These are people who were in this “what’s next” group:
I tried to differentiate the intention of college students who are ready for graduation from the readjusting challenge of veterans in their transition to civilian life from a career change intention for highly accomplished professionals. I knew that “what’s next?” classification would not be based on age, or gender, or profession. The differentiation was in the nature of my clients’ behavioral intention behind the “what’s next?” change and the challenges my clients face when asking it.
So, I classified the behavioral intentions and cognitive challenges, related to the “What’s Next?” question into three categories. Let me know if you agree with them.
Category # 1: The Challenge of MOBILITY
I found this type of challenge most relevant for recently retired people, veterans after completing their military service, and parents after maternity leave. I also call this challenge as “stickiness” to the previous life, where people so strongly associate their portfolio with the years of previous experience that can’t visualize themselves in a “what’s next?” life.
Example: John (47, veteran, retired as a major):
John retired last year. Applied to different government jobs across the spectrum – from the border control-related to managing a sports club, to leadership for youth training. Did not get a job, and seemed that didn’t really try to get it. During the conversation over the “what’s next?” John seemed disengaged. He said that he came because of the pressure of his wife and friends who believed that he was unhappy. On the question of whether he would prefer staying retired with no job, he firmly answered “no”. On the question, whether he really wanted a job, he answered: “yes, if the job fits him well”. On the question of what kind of job would be a fit, he joked that it would be a well paid while relaxing job. On the follow-up questions on what kind of job he was looking for, he became visibly frustrated. Then he defined himself as “artillery combat…” and asked what kind of job you could offer that would be a fit to him. When you open a job search site to work together with him on option, he moved his chair out of the desk.
We will be back to John’s example in follow-up posts in the search of what to do with such a client. For now, let’s figure out what itches him or prevent him from being fulfilled with the next chapter in life. I classify this type of challenge as stickiness to the previous experience, which prevents them really explore new options — both inside or outside. I found this challenge more often in conversation with people who had to leave their previous jobs, colleges, or way of life without having an opportunity to really work on the “what’s next?” chapter of their lives. So they physically left the previous part of their lives, but mentally or emotionally have not yet.
Challenge # 2. Challenge of CLARITY
These clients are “all over the place” in what they want to do with their lives. There are many Millennials in this group, but also many highly intelligent people of any age. This is an example:
Tyler (22, possess an undergraduate degree, doesn’t work): Tyler graduated from a highly prestigious university with a degree in philosophy. Since graduation, Tyler worked on term jobs, unrelated to his degree, with a small income, and he lived with his parents. He discussed the “what’s next?” issue at the request of his parents. On the question of his view on his career path, he first talked about a unique idea for a computer game, then he shifted to the idea of using myths and religious to improve people’s creativity and perceptive abilities, and finally, he shared his interest with artificial intelligence.
I must say, I was VERY impressed with each of Tyler’s ideas and his depth of reflection. The problem was that these ideas were not connected with each other, and were not connected with market opportunities. So, Tyler seemed to be lost in this rich mosaic of ideas and trapped in his own inner self kept.
Challenge # 3: Challenge of UNIQUENESS
Many accomplished professionals why start feeling a need for change are in this category, and also Millennials who are not yet highly accomplished but already well-educated. Individuals with this type of “what’s next?” challenge are usually well-grounded and well-employable. However, they feel that if they are defined by one of their specializations, they would lose their edge for today’s job market or simply feel suffocated or bored. At the same time, they do not know how to bring together multiple dimensions into a new and holistic “I am as a professional” message. These are a couple of examples:
Dana (21, graduating a college). Dana is finishing her college with a triple degree — supply chain, data analytics, and management information systems. She shared that she felt overwhelmed with a “good problem to have”: being a senior with one more semester to go, she had already had an unofficial job offer from the entrepreneurial venture software developer, where she did coop; her job would be to work with clients in software product adaptation. Dana also had an informal invitation to work after graduation with a manager from a large corporation where Dana did another coop; the work would be in a supply chain group. Finally, a start-up internet company seemed to be impressed with her, and that job would be on data analytics. Dana knew that could make living with any of these directions, but felt afraid to be lost in a crowd of similar people that do similar tasks again and again.
David (36, multidimensional professional)
I started this book with a story of David. David is Millennial in his 30s. He graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s in business. He currently works as a professional insurance fraud investigation. David and his wife, who also has a bachelor in business degree, are devoted owners of a small garage-based craft brewery, where they have produced a couple of locally appreciated beers and are currently experimenting with other hipster-oriented drinks. David is also a certified Thai Boxing professional. While David has learned to departmentalize his activities in time and space, he wonders if it is any chance to bring them together to make his professional life more holistic.
I must say that while I love all my clients, these ones are who I am most related to.
Different Challenges need Different Strategies
There is so much information on a personal strategy that want to share! Please stay in tune for the following posts in my blog!
In a nutshell, while all these clients came for career or personal coaching with the same “what’s next?” question, you will apply different strategies for starting working with them.
The Challenge of MOBILITY needs “Inner” Mindfulness Preparation for Built-in Employability. While a client possesses an impressive skill set and portfolio, he demonstrates mindlessness in awareness of his own portfolio and portfolio’s mobility. Thus, as a career or a personal strategy coach, you will with mindfulness coaching. You will start by helping a client to work on reflection of the inner-self to reveal a set of resources and capabilities he possesses that could be isolated them with the previous life scenario and consolidated as his personal capital. The group mindfulness coaching will probably provide him with better protection and feel of security. Only then you could move to the next stages of working on his personal strategy for Built-in Employability, where you connect the available portfolio with emerging opportunities.
The Challenge of CLARITY needs “Outer” Mindfulness Preparation Boutique Employability. While the client seems to be mindful of his inner self, but mindless of the outer environment. Thus as a personal strategy coach or a career coach, you will start with working on his openness to opportunities and changes in the environment and his openness to new information in order to find a new angle for perception and create new categories for understanding the world around him. Only then you would start working on Boutique Employability to help him craft his unique space in this world.
As most advanced in mindfulness, The Challenge of UNIQUENESS can start directly with the Personal Strategy work, which would BE made specifically for her: it would be Built-in her multidimensional and therefore craft her Boutique Employability. As a personal strategy or career coach, you can directly start with a set of strategy techniques on elucidating her professional CORE (aka her personal business model), VRIO assessment of the person’s resources and capabilities, develop and developing a personal Blue Ocean strategy that would craft her edge for today’s job market.
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