The project I am working on (at work) will soon be ending, and I will technically speaking be out of a job. Other projects are starting and some more in the pipeline, but the company has many project managers, and not all of them have a technical background to fall back on. As an engineer I also some experience as a system engineer, so I have more options to consider.
But I decided to take a metaphorical breath. While the project is not yet at an end, it is now a good time for me to reflect on my own future. Do I go back to engineering? Find a position as a systems engineer? Project manager? Or am I ready to do something else?
In 2018 I will be celebrating my fiftieth birthday, and as frightening as that feels sometimes, I have decided that I am not too old for a career change. I have changed careers before, but I had been younger, and the change was not as drastic as the one I am contemplating right now.
Then everything just fell into place. Whether you believe in fate, karma, or God (I am a Christian) when so many things fall into place, you know that the universe is on your side.
It all began with the course I recently completed. If you are a leader or have aspirations to go into management in the future, I can recommend the Values Based Leadership (VBL) Course, presented by the Graduate Business School of the University of Cape Town. The course is available online, and I had classmates from all over the world which added to the perspectives one needs to be exposed to in this environment.
You might readily wonder what the course did to trigger this radical change in my life because I am already in a management position. It wasn't the content of the course, it was the eye-opening it gave me at the lack of leadership and guidance for the younger generation of the workforce. In South Africa, and my industry especially, the concept of a generation gap is very real. In fact, that gap is about twenty years wide and if that doesn't scare the executives of any company, nothing will.
Why is it that bad? Engineering is engineering, isn't it? Unfortunately, when it comes to the military industry is not that simple. The design of a weapon system is not taught at university. How a system needs to be designed around constraints outside of your control (the military environment) is another thing not taught at any academic institution. So the real world is the only learning platform. But with the skilled and knowledgeable labour force about to retire, who is going to fill that gap? How are the executives going to ensure that the company will survive until the next generation is ready to step into those strategic leadership shoes?
Succession planning, knowledge sharing and vocational mentoring are the answers for the technical skills. But the organisational environment is changing almost every year, and the old guard has little interest in the new styles of leadership to encourage and motivate the younger generation. And that was what the VBL course taught me, or rather opened my eyes to the future.
I have had mentorship training at a previous employer, but that is not what I am aiming for in my career change. I want to be a life coach.
I don't know more than other people, nor can I claim to be a better engineer or project manager. But I have been where they are heading to. In fact, I am standing there right now. A four, five, six-way crossing leading away from me into an unknown future. Cross-roads are nothing new in anyone's life: personal, professional, financial, etc. Decisions that affect the future of your life either scare most people into inaction until it is too late, or they make the wrong decisions for themselves and their futures.
Life coaching was a natural choice for me, given my interest in training and mentoring. But it is so much more than that. People know deep inside where they want to go with their lives and sometimes they just need someone to help them find their way.
So I spent weeks thinking, praying, scribbling deep (and often scared) thoughts in my journal only to find yet more signs that the choice is the right one for me. I swallowed my trepidation at the radical choice and enrolled into a life coaching course online.
While the qualification I plan to do is more expensive, I decided to do that as soon as I can. My goals for this year remain in place, but this year is almost over. My current project will soon end.
I needed to look at my future.
I paused and took a deep breath.
I have a new goal. And a plan for my professional future.