Career Stations – Where is your stop?

Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

Train Stations in Barcelona Spain

A few days ago, I was reflecting and reviewing my five-year career plan.  It is year three of my five-year plan and I’m about to extend the plan.   I started this process 12 years ago.  The plan helped me focus on my goal and at the same time acts as a guide for me to track where I’m in relation to my target.    

As I analyzed my current state, it dawned on me that a career is like a train that can stop at many stations.   Each station has requisite skill sets that need to be accomplished before you can move up to the next station.    People make choices to get on and off at each station.   In order to succeed, the person must commit to learning new things and invest the time to learn new things. 

Here is the list of career stations:

Apprentice – the people in this station are usually new graduates or people who transitioned from one job to another.   At this stage, the person needs to know the fundamentals of the business.  He/She needs to learn the process and work closely with someone to get the job done.    The willingness and eagerness are high, but the competency is low.   With proper guidance the person can flourish to be an effective contributor.

Contributor – the people at this station are knowledgeable and understand how to get the day-to-day job done.   They are effective in their role and require minimal supervision.   In most case, they can help in other tasks and contribute new ideas.

Analyst – the people at this station have a good understanding of their departmental function and are able to work closely with other departments.   They usually serve as representatives and interface with other department.   Their in-depth knowledge helps aid in getting things done. At this stage, the person has high commitment and competency.

Team Leader – the people at this station are the leader of the team.  They are the ones that guide the team to accomplish its goal.  People at this level are great executors.   They can carry out the assignment and get it done with the help of everyone on their team.    They are great tactical managers. They will do the thing right.    In my experience, for most people this would be their last stop.   Because the competition at the next level is a lot tougher, one has to be in the right place and at the right time in order to succeed.

Strategist – the people in this station are the visionary of the company.  They are the ones that come up with the roadmap.  These people can see opportunity when others see chaos.   They have a different perspective and viewpoint.  

The leap from team leader to strategist is a big one.  To be able to transition, one must learn to see the other perspective.  The best way to develop your skill is to work with a mentor.  Find someone you emulate and respect and work with them to help you develop this skill.   

To keep things in perspective, one’s happiness should not be tied to one’s job or career.   There are many people who are happy to stay in the contributeur or analyst station.  There are perhaps equal numbers of people who eager to be team leaders.   Enjoy your journey and make the most of your time in each of the station.  Help others grow and share your knowledge and expertise.

It is my personal belief that being a strategist is great.   Because you have the vision and can create roadmap.  But it is not the means to an end.    I would like to emphasize that, in order for anyone to move to the next station, they need to invest the time, money and learn new things to improve their overall capabilities.   In life, we either pay now or later, but either way we have to pay.  Put in the time to learn new things everyday and develop your overall capabilities.   Create a plan, track your progress and adjust it accordingly.    The career plan can help guide you toward achieving your goal.

Planting the Seeds for Leaders of Tomorrow

Will Lukang, PMP, MASCL, MBA

In a crowded room, a leader can scan the room and spot people who have the potential.   They have a different way of seeing things that enables them to spot opportunity when other people just see chaos.   In essence, they have the eye for spotting talented people.  

Patience is the leader’s greatest virtue.  They are willing to invest time and nurture people whom they believe have what it takes to develop to be leaders of tomorrow.  I call the willingness to invest planting the seeds for leaders of tomorrow.   True leaders will take the time and commit to raising people.   No matter how busy they are, they always find the time to help others.   Leaders don’t develop people around them because they want to prove something.  They do it because it is the right thing to do.

How do leaders plant the seeds for leaders of tomorrow?

Spotting – Leaders have an eye for identifying talented people.  Because of the breadth and depth of their experience, they are able to see what other people don’t see.   When they interact with people, they can assess their capabilities.   Spotting is where it all started.  There won’t be developing talent without identifying a possible leader.

Planting – Occurs when a leader approaches the potential leader for mentoring or coaching or engages them in development discussion.  However, the key to planting is the commitment.  Both parties must commit to the time investment and the effort to make it work.

Nurturing – Is watering and fertilizing. This comes in the form of monthly meetings, feedback review, providing challenging opportunities and encouraging the mentees to stretch their wings and try other things they would otherwise not attempt to do.   The coaching and mentoring are the fertilizer that can help develop leaders.   This is the longest stage of the development process.

Pruning – Leaders teach the potential leaders to embrace the challenges.    The leaders are there for the mentee when they fail to achieve their goals.   The leaders guide and provide corrective actions that can help the mentee grow and bounce back.

Transplanting – At this stage, the mentee has learned and demonstrated what it is to be a leader.  The mentee is ready to face the world alone.   The leader is willing to let go and let the eagle fly and spread its wings.   It is time to develop the next leader.

When I use the phrase planting the seed, I can see and feel the picture of transformation across all five stages.   All throughout the process, the leaders never waver and make excuses.    The leaders see to it that the need of the mentee is addressed and time investment is provided.   Like a plant, if you plant the seed, fertilize, water and nurture it, the plant will grow.   I urge you to try the planting the seed for leaders of tomorrow and let me know the result.   Feel free to reach me at will.lukang@gmail.com.