CHAPTER 11 YOUR WORKLIFE YOUR WAY By Carmel O’ Reilly

CHAPTER 11

Become an Autonomous Self-Developing and Growth Agent through Three More Superpowers: Learning, Knowledge, Experience

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” David A. Kolb 

Learning is a superpower we all have within us. We learn from people and situations, and we can also learn to apply what already exists within us: knowledge. Knowledge alone is not power, because there are a lot of people with knowledge who are not powerful. It is only potential power, but becomes a superpower when we use it. Applying the learning and knowledge you have within you through experiences, exploratory assignments, both inside and outside your workplace, will enable you to fine-tune your learning, knowledge and experience superpowers in becoming an autonomous self-developing and growth agent, and advance your WorkLife.

A Case Study

Tony’s Story: Going Across rather than Up the Proverbial Career Ladder

Tony is a sales negotiator in residential property. While he really enjoys his work, he feels his growth and development has stagnated. For the moment there is no scope for him to advance his position within the company, and he is fine with that, because he enjoys his day-to-day work. But he does feel the need to stretch himself more, and he wants to develop new skills – to go across rather than up the proverbial career ladder.   

He identified he wanted to develop his coaching and training skills, and figured the best way to get started at this would be to teach something to someone. He had a wealth of knowledge, and so he asked himself what the smallest and simplest thing he could do to teach someone was.

A fundamental part of his role was building rapport and connecting with people both on the phone and in person. Tony excelled at this, as did his fellow sales colleagues, but he had observed that other colleagues in different functions sometimes struggled. While this was not necessarily integral to all roles, Tony felt this was a WorkLife skill that would benefit everyone, regardless of whether they needed it in their particular role.

Because it was something that had always come naturally to him, he had never given much thought as to how he did it. So he began to break down the steps, which he identified as being:

  1. Open with a smile;
  2. Be himself;
  3. Be friendly;
  4. Listen well;
  5. Show real interest;
  6. Find common ground;
  7. Go off script.

He noted questions he used throughout the call or meeting to build and maintain rapport, to really connect with people.

The company ran Friday Lunch and Learn sessions where people imparted their knowledge to a captive audience of pizza eaters. Tony put forward his idea for a session on building rapport, which attracted a lot of interest. He wanted to make it fun, and so he asked people to share experiences and ideas for good, bad and ugly sales calls, which he then developed into roleplay scenarios. People loved it and wanted more. Tony was happy to oblige and is setting out to develop a series of coaching and training programmes, as well as more Friday Lunch and Learn sessions

A Case Study

Agatha’s Story: How Taking Responsibility of her WorkLife Growth and Development Allowed her to Speak Her Truth and Ask for What She Truly Wanted.

Where will You Be in Five Years?

What do you say when you are asked that ever recurring and somewhat annoying question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” We have come to expect it at interviews and appraisals; but what if it comes up in conversation at a networking event or a cocktail party?

It can be difficult in today’s world to know where you are going to be in the next five months let alone the next five years; and even if you do know, it is a challenge to communicate your WorkLife goals. If it comes up in a social setting, it is up there in the annoying category of questions along with “What do you do?” 

Is our work really defining us? And is that such a bad thing anyway? I suppose not if you deem it to be interesting. But what if you find your work uninspiring and you are not motivated to talk about it?

And just how honest can you be? What if your five-year plan is to be semi-retired and living in the south of France with a little consultancy work to keep your hand in, and your real goal is to spend the next five years building a good network of contacts to facilitate this. Well, perhaps it might not be such a good idea being completely honest in this instance, or you might be suspected of intending to run off with the company’s clients.

However, with all that said, sometimes it does pay to be honest. For example, take Agatha, who was working front of house at a West End theatre. She loved the environment she worked in, and the people she worked with, but her day-to-day work did nothing to fulfil her creative spirit. You see, Agatha aspired to be part of the team creating world-class theatre, and she found herself questioning whether she should share this at appraisal time. 

Determined to take responsibility of her WorkLife growth and development, outside of work she had joined a theatre writers’ group, which supported and developed the work of new writers. She had recently taken part in a page-to-stage writing workshop, and her short play was one of three selected to be showcased by a leading London theatre company. During the production of her play, she had the opportunity to work closely with the artistic director in bringing it to life. He was generous in sharing his knowledge, embracing experiential learning, and giving her every opportunity to learn and experience all aspects of the production from page through to stage. 

This gave her the impetus to speak her truth, and to ask for what she truly wanted, in the knowledge that it could be the beginning of the end in terms of her WorkLife at the theatre. It was not, though. In fact, it was the opposite. Her manager was impressed with the learning, knowledge and experience she had gained in her own time in pursuing her passion, and suggested setting up a meeting with the theatre’s artistic director – a woman who champions the work of new and emerging theatre practitioners. Long story short, she is now planning a sidestep within the theatre through hands-on learning, knowledge and practical experiences. She is applying everything she already has within herself, and gleaning everything she can from the talented artists she is working with from across the industry.

I expect now more than ever, organisations want to keep their good people, and giving them what they want will instil loyalty – the old adage of by giving you receive. It is also worth noting, if you are considering a change into something new and you can effect that change within an organisation where you are known and respected, it is a lot easier than getting your foot in another door. And the moral of the story? Well I guess honesty can be the best policy, and it may be rewarded beyond your dreams!

But what if you aspire to grow and develop into something outside of your current role, organisation or industry, but you do not have the necessary learning, knowledge or experience to get your foot in the door? 

This is a question Maryann asked me. She was a communications coordinator at a public relations company, but she aspired to work with a social enterprise within the environmental sector. However, she was feeling stuck as to how she could go about her approach, based on her learning, knowledge and experience to date.

A Case Study

Maryann’s Story: Growing and Developing into Something New

Thinking about it in terms of my day-to-day WorkLife brought Nespresso coffee to mind, simply because Nespresso coffee is very much part of my daily WorkLife. 

So, take an organisation like Nespresso (www.nespresso.com), and their ecolaboration and sustainability programmes. It fits the organisation profile Maryann had described to me. 

To begin with, I asked Maryann to consider how her current skills and experience would allow her to transition into an organisation/programme like this. But there are no jobs advertised, she said. That’s a mere technicality, I responded. What I wanted her to focus on was how she could transition into an organisation/programme like this, so she would be ready when she did see a job advertised; or she may want to speculatively approach them to express why she would be a great asset for the organisation. She was still feeling blocked, so I shared my thinking.

Taking the example of her role as communications specialist: now communications is unilaterally deemed critical to the success of strategic initiatives, and therein lies one simple but obvious reason why, armed with her expertise, she could speculatively approach a progressive organisation like this. 

She had never worked within this specific industry, and while there may be a skills gap in terms of her learning, knowledge and experience, if she could come up with a reason why she considered herself to be an 80% fit for the organisation/programme, then there is a strong chance they will want to meet with her. Many organisations are willing and able to support the development of that 20% gap. This is because there has been a surge in cross-industry recruitment as employers are beginning to realise the importance of bringing in a broader range of skills and knowledge, and they do not want to miss on the wealth of talent that is available elsewhere.

Of course, she was going to have to sell herself to get them to meet with her in the first place, at which point she would have the opportunity to persuade them she was a good fit for the role and the organisation. So she would need to communicate a strong written presentation of her skills, experience and attributes, and the value she would bring to the organisation in line with their development strategy, which of course she would need to research. Then, as a communications specialist, she would be just the person to draft that strong speculative letter and tweak her CV accordingly. Job done!

This helped to unblock Maryann’s thinking, and she set out to research opportunities. She applied directly for roles advertised, and speculatively approached companies she aspired to work for. She began to speak to people within her network, and it was through this she was invited to a PR awards ceremony at which the top ten social enterprises of the year would be revealed. This led to a conversation with two of the finalists.

One was a Recycling Sector Finalist, which was formed in response to two factors: the lack of affordable furniture for disadvantaged people; and the vast amounts of reusable furniture being buried in landfill.

The other was a Renewable Energy Sector Finalist, established as a society selling ‘green’ hydroelectricity to benefit the local community through its twin aims of regenerating the local economy and promoting the environmental sustainability of the community. 

Both enterprises knew their growth and development plans would benefit greatly from Maryann’s skills. Neither were in the position to employ her full-time, and so she came to an agreement to work as a freelance consultant for both. 

Maryann has achieved her aspiration to grow and develop into something outside of her current role, organisation and industry. She is applying the learning, knowledge and experience she already has, and is gaining new learning, knowledge and experience on the job to become an autonomous self-developing and growth agent. 

Those of you out there who do not work in communications may think that is all fine and dandy. It is an obvious choice for communications specialists, but how can I, coming from a background in abc possibly transition into this xyz organisation/programme? Well, you follow the same strategy I suggested to Maryann. You figure out how your skills, experience and attributes could bring value to the organisation, and you research their development strategy.  You then you compile your letter and tweak your CV. Now I know you may not be a communications specialist and perhaps words do not flow so easily for you, but you are writing about yourself – and who knows you better!

Nespresso is just one of many organisations wanting to make a difference through their ecolaboration and sustainability programmes. I choose to use them as an example because their coffee is very much part of my daily WorkLife and my world. You can research organisations that have significance and meaning to you.

About Nespresso Ecolaboration Programme:  https://www.nespresso.com/pro/uk/en/pages/ecolaboration 

Nespresso Sustainability Programme: 

Develop Your WorkLife Story

In today’s world there are not always opportunities to climb the proverbial WorkLife ladder. There will often be few or no positions to grow into. You can, however, continue your growth and development through learning, knowledge and experience, in or out of your workplace.

Becoming an Autonomous Self-Development and Growth Agent Assignment 

Begin by asking yourself:

How do I want to grow and develop? 

OR

What do I want to grow and develop into? 

THEN

What learning, knowledge and experience do I want to gain?

What opportunities either in or out of the workplace will facilitate this?

Having this awareness will help you to identify the opportunities you need to facilitate your growth and development wants and needs.

A Few Notes

Learning:

Spending time at the beginning of a new task, project or responsibility is time well spent.

Over-learning means you will be so prepared that you will have the confidence needed for whatever comes your way. 

Knowledge:

Teaching someone something by imparting your knowledge is the most effective way to become good at something. Start simple, do one small thing, then improve it.

Experience:

In your WorkLife you play at the level of your practice. Use every opportunity to gain experience, and to practise, practise, practise.

The Moral of this Story

Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. This gives the structure to your growth and development plan to allow you to be more intentional in achieving what you want in your WorkLife. By investing in yourself, through learning, knowledge and experience, you will be able to say “I’m growing and I have my own back.” Self-sufficiency is a wondrous state.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback

Find different ways to grow and develop. You will have insightful and meaningful conversations with yourself by considering other ways to doing that thing, to get into that programme or company. Know there has to be an alternative path – through experience, through service, through standing out some other way, 

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

When asking for opportunities to grow and develop, consider what you are bringing to the table by asking yourself:

What and how can I contribute?

How can I make a difference?

Words of Wisdom

Make a commitment to your own growth and development to keep yourself on a continual path of learning, knowledge and experience.  

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: www.worklifeincorporated.com You’ll find my bio right here: https://worklifeincorporated.com/about/ Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, Founder of www.worklifeincorporated.com. I’m the author Your WorkLife Your Way, blogger and podcaster on the subject of WorkLife. My work focuses on helping people to live their best WorkLives, by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful self-questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story. My Mission is: “To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.”

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