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Career Development

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Do you have a career plan?  You should.  Even if you have not charted out the rest of your life, you should have a shrewd idea of how long you want to stay where you are now; doing what you are doing; and what next.

Here are some exercises that will help you to plan out this and the next stages of your career.

Exercise 1: Getting to Grips with a New Job

Answer these three questions:

  1. What is the true essence of your job?
  2. What is one thing you can achieve quickly to start to build a good reputation?
  3. Who are the people you most need to get to know and to influence?

Exercise 2: Getting Ahead in your Current Job

Set yourself three objectives:

  1. Three people to get to know during the next three months
  2. A substantial opportunity to be innovative, take the lead or make something happen
  3. Some training, development or learning that will position you for a step forward

Exercise 3: Refreshing your Attitude to your Current Job

In ‘Same Job: New Job’, we looked at how to spice up your attitude to your current job, if a move is not on the cards.  Read that blog and choose three petals of the Flower Model of Job Satisfaction.  For each one, decide on one action you will carry out, to boost the way you feel about your job.

Exercise 4: What Next?

You may not yet have a strategic vision of how you want your career to proceed and where you want to get to.  If this is the case, ask yourself the question: ‘what do I want from my career?’

Write this down as a heading in your notebook one evening.  The next day, get up early, make a cuppa, then sit and write anything that comes into your mind onto the page.  Don’t censor or try to organise it.  Just get the ideas down.

Repeat two or three times and then, when you have a quiet hour to spare, go through it all and see what is there that makes real sense to you.

Now you will have the basis for deciding what needs to come next.  Put together a plan for:

  • on-the-job learning
  • continuing professional development
  • taking on projects
  • looking for new opportunities

Exercise 5: Continuing Professional Development

If you are a member of a professional or trade body, this will almost certainly come with your chosen career.  Even so, there will be discretionary modules and units, so make choices based on what you want to prepare yourself for.  If you are not part of such a membership organisation, then look at the training your employer can offer, maybe your trade union has some training you can use, and also look at local FE colleges and the courses they can provide.  You may also want to look at independent training providers who run open programmes.

The trick is to build a logical case that will show your employer what they will gain by investing in putting you on that training.  Be clear about the facts and ask the provider for help in identifying the workplace benefits of their course.

Exercise 6: A Career Change?

There is an excellent set of resources for this at the Open University careers advisory service site.

Further Reading

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The Rules of Negotiation

There are no Rules in a knife fight

No rules in a knife fight - Ted Cassidy in Twentieth Century Fox's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
No rules in a knife fight – Ted Cassidy in Twentieth Century Fox’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

There may be eight rules of Fight Club, but as Harvey Logan told us in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

‘Rules?
In a knife fight?
No rules!’

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I suppose the difference is that one is negotiation for fun (!) and the other is for real (within a fictional world).  But it raises the question:

Are there any rules in a real negotiation?

The Negotiator's PocketbookPatrick Forsyth thinks so.  Patrick is author of one of my favourite Pocketbooks, The Negotiator’s Pocketbook.

Early on in the Pocketbook, he sets out ‘Four Essential Rules’ of negotiation.
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Rule 1: Aim High

This has to merit the status of a rule, doesn’t it.  After all, your best possible outcome, once the negotiation has started, is your opening position, so it had better be as good as you think you can possibly ask for without offending your counter-party and causing them to withdraw summarily.

Rule 2: Get the Other Person’s Shopping List

When I saw this rule, my heart sunk.  While in many negotiations, you will want to get your counter-party to reveal their opening position first (in case it is better for you than you had planned), this is not always the case.  That’s because the opener acts as an anchor and makes it very hard for you to come back with your own opening position that is in another realm altogether.

The counter-party is now stuck in one realm and you are being foolish.  If, however, you open first with your wild position, then it may indeed cause the other person to withdraw, but it will certainly change their whole perception of value.  It will re-frame the negotiation.

But Patrick is wise enough to frame his rule as being about preparation.  Do your research first, he is saying.  Now that’s a rule worth having.

Rule 3: Keep the Whole Package in Mind

How often we hear of negotiations failing over one inconsequential detail.  Inconsequential, that is, to an impartial observer.  But to the parties negotiating, who have become fixated upon it, this one point comes to betoken the whole matter.  That’s foolish.  I like this rule too.

Rule 4: Keep Searching for Variables

The concept of variables is central to the way Patrick describes negotiation and putting them front and centre is right. Anything that could be done, given, granted, requested, conceded, exchanged, varied – these are variables.  And the more you have, the greater your negotiating flexibility.  The greater your negotiating flexibility, the more likely you are to find agreement.  Keep searching for variables – and keep tweaking them.  Too right.

Rule 5: There is no rule 5

… or is there?  Patrick lists four.  What would your fifth be?  Do add your own ideas in the comments.

So here’s the deal

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at searching for a New Job and keeping the Same Job.  Whichever you do, you may find the opportunity to negotiate.  If you do, keep Patrick’s four rules in mind.

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