Spring 2011 vs 2013: A Lesson in Planning

So my last post talked about spring 2009 and how a package/getting laid off by my company actually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened…eventually. Am I saying I was philosophical, seeing the silver lining, happy when that package was put in front of me? No. I had some sleepless nights, I cried on the phone to my mum, cried with some friends over wine (its rejection, even though I didn’t love the job I was still being turfed–it hits the ego), worried about how I’d paid my bills etc. I even mentally prepared myself for moving back in with my parents….yeah…that’s sexy: a 36 (at the time) year old woman living with her parents in the ‘burbs. At least I know I’d be well fed! I was definitely not seeing my turn of events as a good thing but I try to make the best of my new situation-which was a one year contract.

As I’ve stated, networking, building relationships is a skill that comes easily to me. Due to these skills and the boss I moved under doing some networking of his own on my behalf-an opportunity came up for a role on a large corporate project with a Vice President I had known for years (she also happened to be my neighbour and fellow yogi..see above: networking). It (again) wasn’t my first choice for a role due to the nature of the work (project management, keeping records, measurement, change management) but I recognized it would give me a lot of opportunity due to its very high-profile nature and the work that needed to be done. It was actually well suited to my personality because the best way to describe my role (and I take this quote from my VP): My role was “to baby sit executives”. Really. The work involved a mass IT implementation, process change, and changed roles & responsibilities for teams across the organization. I was to work with senior leaders to ensure their teams were doing the groundwork of process change etc in preparation for the IT solution when it went live. I committed to my VP that I would give 2 years to the project….that was June 2010.  After that I met my new boss, the Associate Vice President (AVP)….Ilana. Some people come into your life and you don’t know it at the time, but they (often without meaning to) change your course/direction. Ilana would be that person for me.

Ilana is a force to be reckoned with. People say I have tons of energy, I get tired just listening to Ilana’s schedule: Mother of 3, senior leader at one of the largest retailers in the country, wife, friend, daughter, and still gets involved in her kid’s schools…I don’t know when she sleeps. Yet at the office, you’d never know she’s tired….how could a tired person crank the radio at 5pm and happily sing along while prepping a presentation for the new day? That was my boss. I liked her right away but more importantly I respected her.  The first year we ran the project, got the framework in place, worked with external consultants and she pushed me to strive for more both at work and my personal life (my dating adventures became our most hysterical conversations). In the spring of 2011 Ilana sat me down for my performance assessment and as his her nature she probed me on what I wanted to do…not just with my next ‘job’ but my life. It was a difficult conversation but she didn’t shy away from asking the tough questions. I had no answers. So she encouraged me to contact our EPA (Employee Assistance Program) and get a career coach. She’s a smart lady, I know she had my best interests at heart: I listened. I made the call and got a coach.

Have you ever used a career coach? There are lots of them out there and and my feeling is this: you need to be a) ready, b) do the work in order for the experience to actually mean something for you. He was a great coach and I’d highly recommend him but I’d also say he was very honest in level setting expectations with me. He made it clear I’d have to do the work and commit to this process to see results. So with both his help and Ilana’s encouragement…I booked a couple sessions, started my personality test and was given my homework of ‘the templates’. What are these? Well, they were just little pieces of paper…but it was the process of filling these out that helped me define what I wanted and figure out a game plan. I never had one of those before…a plan. A lot of people have thoughts about when they wanted to be married, have kids, have a house, have their dream car etc. I’m not one of those people. Beyond finishing university, get a job I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to bigger goals. I live my life very differently now.  The famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. I set the odd goal but never thought about how I’d get there so you know what usually happened? I never achieved the goal! The role I had under Ilana was all about a project plan, setting dates, committing to those dates, measuring whether or not you hit said dates…..notice something? The very role I was given was almost mirroring what I was about to set out to do….actually set a plan/some goals in place for my own life! Yeah, I know, this shouldn’t be earth shattering but for me it was. For someone who is seemingly intelligent (I did graduate from one of the best post secondary institutions in this country), could climb a corporate ladder and managed to buy property by myself I somehow never thought about long-term planning/what bigger goals I wanted to hit. My financial advisor always found my laissez-faire attitude amusing but even he was pushing me to think bigger picture: what do you want to see with your money in 10 years etc? The universe puts the signs out there…some of us just need to be hit over the head repeatedly……it would seem, I am one of those people.

So what of those templates? Well the career coach told me to take them away with me (I was about to fly to Scotland for a family wedding). Good old-fashioned hard copy paper with a pen. So I did. I was out of the country with my extended family and friends for 2 1/2 weeks. Away from the pressures of work etc. He told me I’d be more likely to answer honestly, be true to me that way…he was right. The results of those templates and personality test lead to a decision. A decision is the first step in setting some goals and plan….and (to my surprise) can lead to a rather quick results in the bigger scheme of things.

That’s the new entry……

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