Career Management Through the Seasons - How Mentoring Can Help

This article covers the four seasons of career management and the impact of mentoring on professional development.

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I read an interesting article last week in the newsletter of Bucharest-based Leadership Facilitator and Public Speaking Coach, Amalia Sterescu.

The article mentioned that career management has four seasons and stages that we go through depending on our life situations and experience.

This got me thinking to ask ChatGPT to provide more facts about this, so I asked a simple question:

‘Describe the four seasons of career management’

Here’s what ChatGPT came up with:

“Career management, like the four seasons, goes through distinct phases, each characterised by its unique characteristics and challenges. Here's a metaphorical description of the four seasons of career management:

• Spring: In the spring of career management, you embark on your professional journey. Just like the blossoming flowers and the fresh energy of spring, this season is marked by enthusiasm, growth, and exploration. You may be starting your career, switching fields, or seeking new opportunities. Spring is a time for learning, building foundational skills, and establishing a solid footing for your future.

• Summer: As you progress in your career, you enter the summer season. Like the warm and vibrant days of summer, this phase is characterised by increased responsibilities, productivity, and potential. You may have gained expertise in your field, achieved significant milestones, and established a reputation. Summer is a time for nurturing your achievements, embracing leadership roles, and making impactful contributions.

• Autumn: As the leaves change colours and fall in autumn, your career may also go through transitions. This season is a time for reflection, evaluation, and adaptation. You may consider new directions, reevaluate your goals, or seek professional growth opportunities. Autumn is marked by honing your skills, leveraging your experiences, and preparing for future endeavours.

• Winter: The winter season of career management is a time of introspection and reinvention. Just as winter brings cold and quiet solitude, this phase may involve career changes, retirement, or a deliberate shift in focus. It's a time for personal development, pursuing passions, and finding new avenues to contribute. Winter encourages wisdom and embraces change, harnesses your wisdom, and embarks on new adventures.

Remember that the seasons of career management are not strictly chronological, and individuals may experience them differently. Some may move through the seasons rapidly, while others may spend more time in one phase. The key is to adapt, grow, and navigate each season to ensure a fulfilling and meaningful career journey.”

As someone who is now in the winter of my career, I then reflected on my own four seasons and the role that career management and mentoring can play. Here is an outline of my journey:

Season - Spring

Career Stage: Graduate. Thinking about first career roles.

My University Lecturers inspired me to think about career choices . But I did not get to find a career mentor at that time. It was late 1978 ,before the days of the internet, social media and networking and finding connections was not so easy as it is now with PushFar and LinkedIn. I was interested in creative writing and at the same University as Simon Armitage (the UK’s current poet laureate) I edited a poetry magazine called Grassroots – printed on recycled friends of the earth paper. I was published as a poet several times and gained a place in the top 100 Poets Yearbook. However, it was not a full-time job, and I didn’t earn much as a professional poet. So, I looked at other ways to get into using my English writing skills – and I explored Journalism, publishing, and printing but none of these worked out.

To be honest I needed a mentor in the Spring of my career but could not easily find one (PushFar was not invented in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and nor was the Internet, LinkedIn or indeed any social media). That meant I made a few false starts before finding HR as my career. Today it is much easier for young people to find a mentor (with PushFar of course).

After applying for two HR jobs I was fortunate to be offered both , and I chose to go to work in London as a Group Training Officer for a Dental Products Manufacturing company – making drills and other dentist tools. This led me to a career path in Human Resources at the age of 24, where I was a Recruitment Officer for The Co-operative Society.

My first good mentor was the Area Sales Manager who taught me how to write targeted messages and manage customer relations effectively and I gained assignments at the Co-op Management Centre teaching supervisors and team leaders.

Season - Summer

Career Stage: First Management role.

After 5 years I moved from the Co-op to work for Unigate Dairies as an Area Personnel Manager and had a team of people reporting to me for the first time. I had a mentor who was a Management Development Advisor and he helped me think through how I could build the team and how I could become more effective in growing my management skills. I was introduced to the work of Ken Blanchard – Situational Leadership, The One Minute Manager and his “servant leadership” style and ways to motivate and engage people make him still a role model for me today.

Season - Autumn

Career Stage: Career achievements and change of career direction.

After Unigate (now Dairy Crest) I grew my HR career with larger international organisations including Duracell, then moved to GlaxoSmithKline - where I gained training as a mentor from the CIPD – Professor David Clutterbuck ,who wrote the best-selling book“ Everyone Needs a Mentor“ was my teacher and mentor and together we launched a successful mentoring programme for Finance Professionals in the UK and USA. The program lasted for over 2 years and enabled several promotions and development moves for the Finance Professionals.

My career continued to grow and after 10 great years at GSK in 4 different roles I was headhunted and promoted to a European HR Director role at Premier Farnell,( now Farnell Global) and I joined the Global HR Leadership Team and helped develop a Learning Organisation Culture and Values across the Company.

Five years later, I moved to the Coca-Cola company where I set up their first Europe HR Shared Services Team which grew across other geographies and eventually merged into a Global Business Services Function alongside Finance and IT.

My mother died in 2010 and at that time I was at a crossroads in my career, and following mentoring by a Career Transitions Consultant I decided to take a different route , a new direction, setting up my own business as a self-employed HR consultant, working on global HR Transformation and Change Management Programs for a range of large scale clients such as NCR, CWT, Becton Dickinson and GKN Automotive where I also got involved in Executive Coaching of senior leaders.

Season - Winter

Career Stage: Reflection and finding new avenues to contribute. Transitioning towards retirement.

In the past 4 years, I have supported PushFar as an Ambassador, a member and chair of the Advisory Board, and a volunteer mentor and I really enjoy mentoring several mentees across different countries and sectors including Africa. It is rewarding to share knowledge and give something back and to continue learning too, as mentoring is a two-way learning experience. I also enjoy writing articles for the PushFar website. So that early Spring interest in writing has stayed with me throughout my career.

It's great to see how PushFar has grown in 4 years from a small start-up to over 120,000 members on the Open platform and 150 organisations licensing our cloud-based platform for their own mentoring programs.

The algorithms, technology, and AI features of PushFar make mentoring matching, meeting scheduling, goal setting and progress report tracking so much easier by about 80% than in my days at GSK where it took two days a month to administer the mentoring program.

I won’t retire just yet – mentoring and writing and supporting DE&I are interests that I’m not ready to give up.

Which season of your career are you in and how will you utilise mentoring to help you?

This article was guest written by Simon Brown. June 2023.

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