Choice and the employee experience
“I became an accountant because accountants are the career choice of my family. We are a family of accountants. But when I spent my first week for one of the Big 4 firms, I knew that I could not do this for my entire life.”
“I became a lawyer because my mother and father were both lawyers. I never gave it much thought, only that I knew I would become a lawyer. I enjoyed law school and it was only when I got my first real job as a lawyer that I knew that this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I just could not fathom doing this for 30 plus years.”
Both of these conversations with friends over the years came back to me this week when I read an old article in Arab News concerning Saudi Arabian youth and their career choice. The title of the article was Young Saudis pursue career dreams despite the odds.
There were two profiles in this article; one was a filmmaker and the other a chef. Both faced difficulty within their families because “their” career choices were for them to become an engineer and a medical doctor.
If you are asked give it, but if not, shut up
As parents, we all want the best for our kids, and in some ways, we do more harm than good by getting involved in their career choice. If they asked for our opinion, we should give it. If not, do everyone a favor and keep your opinion to yourself.
Both these Saudi individuals became successful in their own right, despite their parents' wishes. My friends quoted at the top of the article also bounced back and are very successful in “their” chosen area of expertise: Career counselor and magazine editor.
Organizations today are full of individuals who are in the wrong careers. They sit out there every day, on your dime, and dream of another profession. This causes frustration within the workplace because the reason for managers and workers acting out is that they are working where they do not want to be.
Jack of all trades? Forget about it
I get requests and unsolicited emails all the time from people looking for a “job” As one person said, “any job.” While I will always respond to anyone that reaches out, the “any job” comment causes what hair I have left to stand up.
That almost always will push me to follow up with a phone call. My position is that you are in charge of it, and you should not be a jack of all trades. Nobody today who is looking for talent is looking for a jack of all trades.
I often think of what an organization would look like if everyone were doing exactly what they wanted. The vast majority of workers that you have now would no longer be there.
Your workplace would instead be populated with engaged, determined, and focused individuals. Your business would be highly innovative and successful. Imagine walking into any business or organization and seeing everyone exhibiting signs of engagement. Their enthusiasm would be contagious; the employees would really function as a team. The clock on the wall would become a decorative ornament.
I applauded Zappos for their policy of paying recruits who aren’t fitting in to leave. That cost of $2,000 is minuscule compared to the damage that it would cost for having this type of individual populate your workplace. And, it’s all because they were looking for a job and never figured out what they wanted to do.
Following the dream and never giving up
Organizations should be concerned about their employee’s choice of careers. We have all witnessed people who have dreams of being elsewhere, wherever that is.
I have a friend and colleague who was a painter, and every conversation we had would always end up with him talking about his dream of moving to France and becoming a painter. The painting was what he did in his spare time. His workspace was populated with his sketches, and he eventually purchased a house in France.
Our workers sometimes will need guidance, and we should be as upfront as possible.
Your company should have a career department
“Everybody in Saudi Arabia wants his child to be either a doctor or an engineer whether he has the potential or not. We try to lead each individual to what he wants to do in life,” said Farah Al-Ghamdi, Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at Rawabi Holdings.
Whereas colleges have career departments, it probably would not be a bad idea to create one in-house in your organization. You could probably make a serious dent in your engagement numbers as a result.
So next time you walk through the workplace and notice that an employee is looking off in the distance, it could be that they are dreaming of their career. And just maybe, it is not the career your organization is offering.
Ron Thomas is Managing Director, StrategyFocused Group DWC-LLC, based in Dubai.
He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf countries, also based in Dubai. A former CHRO who was based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Ron is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute [hci.org ] covering the MENA region. He...