Category Archives: Career Development

Scenario Planning – An Essential Career Planning Skill

I am continuing to work on the career book which will be released on December 1st. Along with the book, I will be releasing an online course that teaches the job-seeking skills for the new job seeker.

A vital skill for future job seekers will include scenario planning. Scenario planning was developed by the Shell Corporation in the 1970s to help deal with economic uncertainties. One scenario, oil embargo by the OPEC nations, was considered too fanciful – until it happened. Thanks to scenario planning, Shell weathered the oil embargo successfully.

The job hunter will use scenario planning to help them plot the future of their career path. To create the scenarios, follow these steps:

Identify the driving forces – what are the significant shifts in technology, society, the customer base, and other factors in the industry.

Identify two of the most critical uncertainties – From the list of the driving forces, pick two that are most critical to your future career.

Create four scenarios – Using the two critical uncertainties as axis, develop four plausible scenarios. The best way to present the scenarios is as stories.

Person wearing VR goggles

For example, I created these scenarios when I first entered the federal government in 2009. This was when newly elected President Obama wanted to reinvent government technology. The critical factors were the new digital technologies and how effective the federal government would be in implementing the latest digital technologies.

First Scenario – SteamGov

This scenario borrows from the steampunk genre[iv] in describing a future where the government attempts to implement Gov 2.0, but the rest of the world has moved on to Web 3.0 or even Web 4.0.

Government IT is still a generation behind the current technology available to citizens, thus limiting the engagement offered by the agencies. Large, centralized IT architectures dominate the agencies and employees are continually frustrated by the underpowered workstations they have to deal with, especially when their own personal technology is much more powerful. There are small pockets of innovation and pilot projects, but organizational cultures prevent scaling up these innovations to the agency.

Second Scenario – Google.Gov

Following a Supreme Court ruling that narrows the definition of inherently governmental, most government functions are outsourced to the private and nonprofit sectors. A Google-like company consolidates most of the outsourcing contractors into one contracting firm that applies the latest technology and business practices to deliver a diverse range of government services. The Executive Branch now consists of the White House staff and a larger GAO. The new GAO administers the mega-contract that governs the quality and accountability of government services provided by the huge contracting firm.

Third Scenario – LabGov

Still suffering under crushing budget constraints and frustrated by the continuing number of programs forced onto the states by the Federal government, state governments see Gov 2.0 as the way out of their fiscal mess. Living up to Justice Brandeis’ metaphor as “laboratories of democracy,” the state governments experiment with the latest open-source technologies, agile project management, and any other IT or management innovations that promise greater efficiency at lower costs and higher citizen satisfaction.

Citizens respond with enthusiasm and petition to have more federal programs (and funds) transferred to the states because they can manage services better, faster, and cheaper than the federal government. States form into regional and programmatic associations that shift the federal-state balance-of-power from the national government to regional governmental organizations.

Fourth Scenario – InnoGov

In 2011 the civilian equivalent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration was established. Its mandate is to be the project management office for Gov 2.0, and the office seeks innovative Gov 2.0 projects, funds the development of these projects, and helps other agencies to copy the innovations. New radical management techniques are introduced, and organizational cultures become more collaborative and innovative.

By 2014 the federal government is the leading innovator in IT and management practices and helps to revitalize the private and non-profit sectors with its technology/best practices transfer programs. Citizen engagement and trust in government rises while the cost-savings and greater efficiencies bring about an era of budget surpluses.

In the past ten years, I have used the scenarios to help me plan my federal career. In fact, the LabGov scenario drives my long-term plans to be a consultant to state and local governments.

My career book will help job seekers create guiding scenarios to map out their career futures.

The OODA Loop and Developing Your Career

I am making good progress on my latest book. In an earlier blog post, I described my book as a career development guide for the new age of artificial intelligence and cognitive automation. As old jobs fall away, new jobs that can’t be imagined today will be well-established in the later years of the 2020s.

The major challenge for the job hunter is finding these new jobs. My career book is the first to use the OODA Loop in career development. The OODA (Observe – Orient – Decide – Act) Loop was developed by a brilliant, maverick U.S. fighter pilot. Colonel John Boyd’s work has been adopted by the U.S. Army and was used successfully in the first Iraqi War.

OODA Loop Diagram

The OODA Loop concept has been adopted in strategic business management and even political campaigning. The OODA Loop looks simple, but it has an underlying sophistication that makes it powerful.

In the first part, Observe, a person (or entity) takes stock of the immediate environment and stimulus. After observing the environment and stimulus, the person then orients their self so they can decide (third step) and take action (fourth step). An OODA Loop can be completed in seconds or take months, depending on the situation.

In my forthcoming book, I use the OODA Loop to help the job seeker understand the rapidly-evolving career environment and determine how to orient their self to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Effectively performing the first two steps will help the job seeker make good decisions and take powerful actions to thrive in the new world of work.

What to Do When Your Boss is Jealous of You

When I met my friend for lunch, I could tell she was upset. She had started a new job over a year ago, and everything was going well. Many happy emails about her great work projects and the way her boss kept praising her work. Recently, the emails stopped. Then, a short email asking if I could meet for lunch.

I told her my job was going well and about the exciting projects I was working. She sighed and said that she had worked on some great projects but, was suddenly taken off all the projects. She was now relegated to tedious administrative tasks while her boss continually criticized her about her performance. Her boss used to love my friend’s work but, for the last six months, my friend couldn’t seem to do anything right.

I think I knew what was going on, but, I wanted to check further. So, I asked my friend if:

1. She suddenly had limited access to her boss.

2. Her boss stopped praising her in front of co-workers.

3. Her boss doesn’t respect her opinion anymore.

4. Any communications to higher-ups needed to go through her boss.

5. She was told by her boss not to speak at public events or people in other departments.

6. Her boss no longer talks about developing her.

7. Other managers seem to shun her.

My friend was amazed at how I knew all this was happening. I couldn’t claim credit because I had read about these signs from a 2017 Forbes article by Liz Ryan. Ms. Ryan wrote about how some bosses can become “spooked by a too-competent or too-confident subordinate for almost any reason — and once that happens, they will try to make your life miserable!”

Laptop screen showing "Do More."

Ms. Ryan explains that it takes little for a boss to become jealous of a successful subordinate. Just one successful presentation to senior management or success with a highly visible project is enough to scare your immediate supervisor.

“What do I do?” asked my friend.

Unfortunately, Ms. Ryan advises a stealth job search. Once your boss sees you as a threat, it will be impossible to convince him or her you are not. Staying will only damage your morale and your reputation for excellence.

While you are job searching, make sure that you are doing your best at even the most menial tasks assigned to you. Also, try to find objective evaluations of your work, such as customer reviews and sympathetic co-workers that you trust. Another way of keeping your morale up is to be active in professional associations and volunteer work. What you are trying to do is minimize any impact your boss’s opinion will have on you and any future employers.

“So, what do I say when they asked me why I left my previous job?”

Tell the truth; you wanted opportunities to develop yourself. Emphasize the accomplishments from your previous job and how these accomplishments encouraged to you grow your skills and abilities. Talk about how you used your work with the professional organization and volunteer groups to prepare you for your next move.

Above all: do not criticize your former boss. True that your former boss mistreated you by being jealous, but that is his or her problem and not yours. If you want to think about this way, your old boss was paying you a compliment by being jealous. A strange compliment but, think positive.

As I told my friend, it is not fair that being good at your job can lead to jealousy by your boss. However, this may be a lucky break for you because you will most likely find a better job. And a better boss who appreciates you and your talents.

Community Learning Coaches

A PROPOSAL TO HELP EDUCATION IN RURAL POPULATION AREAS BY SOLVING THE ADJUNCT FACULTY CRISIS

Several of the Democratic Presidential candidates are advocating some variation of free college. Either paying for the first year of college or tuition-free attendance at the local community college, the idea is to make college affordable for low-income families. Sounds like an effective solution to helping rural populations gain the skills to compete in the coming Fourth Industrial Age economy.

Free college is not the best answer. Opposing free college may sound strange from someone with a Ph.D., three master’s degrees, and who has taught college courses for nearly twenty years. But, it is my experiences as both a college student and professor that led me to think of another solution.

Several buildings in a rural field.

The Problems with the Free College Solution:

1. A traditional college education will take too much time – A fulltime student will need at least two years to obtain an associate degree and four years for a bachelor’s degree. There are part-time options, but that will only extend the length of time needed for the degree. Students – especially adult students – will need to sacrifice years of prime earning opportunities until they are skilled for the workplace.

2. Students must leave their communities to attend college – Community colleges are probably more available to low-income students than state universities and colleges. For many rural areas, there are “education deserts” in which students will need to commute to their classes.

There are online options, but this depends on the availability of broadband. In many rural areas, the broadband Internet may not be available. The lack of broadband Internet also exacerbates the education deserts problem.

3. Universities are not designed to train people for workplace skills they need now – Community colleges and trade schools are the best equipped to teach students technical skills. Universities and colleges specialize in liberal arts education. A liberal arts education is valuable for teaching critical thinking skills and preparing students for leading people and organizations. However, a liberal arts education takes longer to acquire than most technical skills.

Your typical college professor is rewarded by his or her research productivity. Tenured professors are rewarded for the number of research articles published, and research grants acquired. Teaching is not as valued and even discouraged if teaching interferes with the professor’s research output.

The adjunct faculty perform most of the undergraduate teaching for colleges and universities. The number of adjunct faculty hired over the last fifteen years has risen dramatically. Seventy-five percent of college professors are non-tenured. A recent article in The Atlantic describes the shocking reality of adjunct teaching.

“To be a perennial adjunct professor is to hear the constant tone of higher education’s death knell. The story is well known—the long hours, the heavy workload, the insufficient pay—as academia relies on adjunct professors, non-tenured faculty members, who are often paid pennies on the dollar to do the same work required of their tenured colleagues.”

It was after reading this article and reflecting on my own experiences as an adjunct faculty member I came up with the following proposal. I am still working out the details, so what follows are broad sketches of my idea.

The Community Learning Coaches (CLC) Proposal

1. Determine which rural communities need help in reskilling the population for new jobs. The new skills can be how to run an additive manufacturing business, a vertical farm, a renewable energy plant, or similar Industry 4.0 job.

2. Create a training center with state-of-the-art classrooms, satellite Internet broadband, and an Internet café. These centers will be in targeted rural communities for easy access by the population.

3. From among the adjunct faculty population, hire “community learning coaches” to live in the towns and run the training centers. The CLCs will determine the educational needs of the local people, create courses, deliver training, and coach students into self-learning experiences. The CLCs will be given room and board along with a decent wage as they work to help the local population increase their opportunities in the new economy.

4. The CLCs will be trained in the latest training techniques to help the local students rapidly improve their knowledge, skills, and abilities. The CLCs will be supported by a national network of educational experts linked through online communities.

My proposal solves several problems at once — first, CLCs help to prepare rural communities to thrive in the new Industry 4.0 economy. Second, CLCs help to alleviate the issues that adjuncts face in the current university teaching situations. Third, universities and colleges can continue to concentrate on their primary mission of research. Diverting the money that would have paid expensive college tuitions to build community training centers staffed by CLCs seems to be a better use of federal tax funds.

Reinventing Your Career in the Smart Machines Age

My third new book will be about something I have been thinking about since the mid-80s but is especially relevant today. When I entered college, my focus was on finding a good job when I graduated. Many of my friends were going into computer programming, law, and business. However, I started as a physics major, then switched to speech communication while taking as many philosophy classes as I could.

Around my fourth semester, panic set in, and I was convinced by well-meaning relatives I should go to law school. So, I double-majored in speech communication and paralegal science. I was graduated in the winter of 1990 and, after two gap years, I entered night law school in the fall of 1993. After a year of law school, I realized I made a big mistake. A mistake I could have avoided if I had paid closer attention to a book I read in 1991.

Beverly A. Potter published The Way of the Ronin: A Guide to Career Strategy in 1984. I came across it just after college. I had some instruction in college about how to job hunt, including how to handle a lunch interview. My job hunt after college graduation landed me a part-time job at the local convenience store. My bachelor’s degree did gain me an extra five cents on the hourly wage. See, education does pay.

college graduate silhouetted by the sun.

During the summer of 1991, I checked out every job hunting, resume writing, and interviewing skills book that the Lexington (Kentucky) Public Library had. My efforts paid off with an entry-level paralegal job in the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency. I still had to keep the convenience store job because my paralegal job barely paid my rent and expenses. The traditional job hunt of resumes and cover letters was not working that well for me.

Dr. Potter’s advice for job hunters was to drop the linear model of career development. Instead of finding the perfect well-trod path of specialization, Dr. Potter recommends developing a wide range of skills to navigate the dynamically changing world of work better. She wrote about career ronins who “[g]uided by a personally defined code of adaptability, autonomy, and excellence” (p. xi).

“Ronins are employing career strategies grounded in a premise of rapid change. By making lateral moves that follow their interests, they become generalists with specialties.” (p. xi)

Dr. Potter was writing about the rapid changes in the workplace during the late 70s and early 80s. But her strategies worked just as well in the early 90s as the rise of the commercial Internet revolutionized careers. Reinvigorated by her advice, I dropped out of law school, turned my hobby of computer programming into a deep skill, and took a big career leap by going to Washington D.C. and becoming a political consultant.

From 1995 to now, I followed the career ronin strategy. I’ve had many jobs and have taken a nonlinear path to where I am today. And, I feel more content and fulfilled in my career journey.

In the age of smart machines, the gig economy, and digital disruption, how do you find a job and build a career? My forthcoming book will give you the skills to reinvent yourself and navigate the new world of work. To prepare for the future job market, you need skills like:

  • Scenario Thinking
  • Mapping the Career Landscape
  • Searching for the Fulfilling Job – Or Creating the Fulfilling Job
  • Beyond the Resume: The Career Portfolio
  • Creating the Business Model that is You
  • Building Your Own Personal Career University
  • Understanding What Motivates You and Establishing Your Unique Value
  • Developing Resilience and Empowering Yourself

Unique to other career planning books, I will show you how to use the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop to refine your career planning skills continually. The OODA Loop was created by a brilliant Air Force colonel who revolutionized military strategy. The OODA Loop is perfect for building your career strategy – especially in the new volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous job marketplace.

Thus, my reason for writing my third book. Of the hundreds of career books I checked out in the summer of 1991, only one helped inspire me. I hope my book will have the same impact on today’s job hunters.