“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
If you’ve interviewed in the last decade or so you’re likely to have heard this question.
I’ve always I struggled with answering it because it seems to demand performance rather than honesty. How can I know where I’ll be in 5 years? At a Neko Case concert? Spending too much money on tea? Trying to salvage my last contact lens from the sink drain? These are the very few constants in my life…
I think that well-meaning interviewers and managers ask this question to try to get a sense of what someone wants. What their aspirations are. How they see the narrative arc of their professional lives unfolding.
As the end of the year draws closer, I find it hard to resist the urge to plot out goals for 2018. I’m a planner and find goals highly motivating. In years past I’ve taken time to carefully plan annual objectives and break them down into the quarterly, monthly, or daily activities required to reach each goal. While I don’t always achieve everything I set out to, I’ve done quite well with this approach (as long as you don’t ask me about my meditation habit).
2017 was not a bad year for goals. I set out to improve my writing by committing to publish a blog post every week this year, and unless something catastrophic happens, I will achieve that goal (as well as having reached my 100th post on Talent Vanguard). I diligently kept up my weightlifting training, and hit PRs on all three major lifts. And I overcame a significant fear to do some public speaking (I didn’t die, but it’s still terrifying).
It wouldn’t have occured to me to write about technology this week, even after attending Adam Alter’s talk about addictive tech at Rotman on Monday, which made such a big impression on me. Then Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter landed in my inbox headed by this image, and it felt like a sign.
Working in HR means working with conflict. Often that conflict appears in our inbox or at our office door because it’s reached a stage at which it feels unmanageable to one or more of those involved.
When it lands there, we can find ourselves cast as mediator or referee. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds this to be a source of professional frustration; a firefighter called to the scene only after the flames have spread to adjacent buildings.
The only job I’ve ever been fired from was at The Body Shop, and I totally deserved it. In my last year of high school I had enough credits to need only a handful of classes, so I got two retail jobs at the local mall to pay for car insurance and cigarettes (gross, I know). The Body Shop was a tight-knit collective of diligent young women who seemed to re-invest most of their paycheques back into Body Shop products. They loved the ethos of the company, and completed intensive product knowledge training that allowed them to chirpily recite the ingredients on demand for any one of our vast array of aromatic offerings.
I did not fit in.
“Leaders are made not born”.
We must believe this, since our organizations spend a staggering amount of money every year to improve the managerial and leadership skills of their employees.
We also place a high value on leadership as individuals, treating those recognized as great leaders with a kind of cultish reverence. Inspiring quotes about leadership abound on social platforms, often in the same intense language used to describe CrossFit.
One way I gauge the degree to which the world is getting to me is how much my throat hurts. I’m an incurable jaw clencher and after a few days of upper and lower mandible warfare the tension spreads down the front of my neck until it feels like I’ve been strenuously holding in a scream, which sometimes I think I have been.
Reading the accounts of the many brave women coming forward to report that they experienced sexual harassment and mistreatment from Harvey Weinstein is both freshly devastating and oppressively familiar. We’ve been here. A lot.
Adaptive. Agile. Responsive.
Whether you believe that the world is changing faster than ever or not, I suspect there is near-universal agreement among leaders that organizations must become more nimble to succeed.
However, as is often the case, the desire for an organization to be something different seems to be strangely disconnected from the doing it will entail at the individual level. That is to say, adaptive and agile sound like fantastic destinations when considered in isolation from the daily practices required to get us there.
Last Monday I was part of a panel at an event titled “Keeping HR Human in a Digital World”. It was a great panel with diverse viewpoints and experience, and a lively audience that stuck around to ask questions and chat.
A question that wasn’t asked, but maybe should have been is:
“What do we even mean by ‘digital’?”
Certainly we all know the literal meaning of ‘digital’, and based on the discussion at this event, we definitely get that a digital world means one with lots of technology…but how is that different than last year, or 5 years ago, or even 10?