As with every new fiscal year, we begin a new cycle of planning, setting goals and dividing up the work. Along with that, goes the annual meeting with the manager to discuss the work expectations for the next year, including its subset conversation about career development as well as training and learning plans.
Over the first couple of decades of my career, those conversations were pretty easy. I always looked for computer courses to stay on top of technology, courses to keep my corporate writing skills sharp, and courses to prepare me for the eventual career in management. That plan served me very well for most of my career.
However, after 5 times at bat as acting manager, I have concluded that for me, the management ship has sailed and that I am much happier in my normal job, where I get to roll my sleeves up and do a wide array of tasks from the very strategic to the very practical. While I have demonstrated that I am indeed able to manage, deep down I know it is not my thing. I tip my hat to those who do enjoy it and I fully support them.
So what is next on my career path when I only have five (ish) years to go?
Frankly, in seeing the metaphoric finish line in sight for this career, and in deciding once and for all that I do not want to become a manager when I grow up, that conversation seems to get more awkward with each passing year. Now I totally understand how some of my baby boomer team members felt when I was the (acting) manager asking them what they had in mind in terms of a training plan and they would reply, “I’m good. I don’t need courses.”
It is really the first time that I feel I am in that same paradigm, and inflicting on myself a catholic guilt trip for thinking of signing up for a course when it is my turn to see the finish line get closer with each passing week. In times of fiscal restraint, I would rather see limited training dollars go to the next generations of employees who have a whole career ahead of them to build new skills as well as draw from them.
But for some of our corporate folks, “everyone must have a training plan”. I will concede that it is a valid statement to encourage all employees to either keep aiming for the next step or to keep their skill set fresh and up-to-date. I would counter-suggest that the pressure to be career-oriented and goal-oriented should become a matter of choice when age 50 is looming.
The fact is that over the span of my career, I have completed some really fascinating assignments that, even to this day, still blow my mind when I see them on my résumé. Added to the fact that I have worked with the best of the best, public servants who exemplified commitment, loyalty and service, each chapter in my career was a page turner, if I do say so myself.
As a result, I have a very short list of things I would like to do in the remaining years of this career, a short “bucket list” of sorts, but a very personal list of goals that are important to me for very personal reasons and that I believe will be of added-value to the organization. The reality is that I do not necessarily require formal training to accomplish them.
Deep down, I think the answer is obvious. My goal for the next 5 years is to share the knowledge that I have been so privileged to gain over the years. I would also like to help the next generation see how the career possibilities are endless when one keeps an open mind to the twists and turns that life offers us on our career paths. And ultimately, I would like to slot myself into an assignment where I am inspired daily to do my best work in the hopes of ending career #1 on a high note.
The training that is so generously offered to us is really just icing on the cake.