In the journey towards getting the ideal job, the workplace is full of interesting stories of how people started their careers in totally unrelated fields from their current positions. Stories are told of engineers who started off as cooks, Property developers who started off as doctors, accountants who later became pilots and a one-time teacher who became a President. A majority of people go through a meandering journey in their careers before settling down to one either by choice, passion or circumstance.
These career progression stories are reminiscent of the famous Biblical “road to Canaan”, popularised by Kenya’s politicos, with a pithy sprinkling of fables referring to crocodiles in river Jordan that threatened safe crossing of the river. The scenario eventually spawned the famous “handshake” and an initiative for “Building Bridges” across the River Jordan.
In his book, Why Great Men Fall. Wayde Goodall lists some of the hurdles people go through in the workplace which we can liken to “crocodiles” that threaten safe passage across the rivers of career progression. These include workplace relationships, integrity, silence, entitlement, anger, accountability, stress, pressure and money among others. We cannot forget other career-killer crocodiles such as corruption, advent of technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), gender issues, racial biases and ethnicity.
It can be said that an individual’s career growth is dependent on his ability to evade, fight, or swim with the crocodiles. So what happens when you fall in your career path? Building bridges and creating “handshakes” can come in handy in survival and growth. The cardinal rule is to never burn bridges especially when leaving one employer to another.
Scores of companies are not averse to re-employing staff who have left before to pursue greener pastures elsewhere. They may come back at the same level or mostly a grade or two higher than their last position. It will happen that such an occurrence can upset incumbent staff resulting in resistance of the “buy-back”, especially if they perceive a threat to their own careers. This resistance from staff often ignores the corporate benefits of re-hiring staff to the detriment of the organisation.
Navigating this rejection undercurrent calls for “building bridges and the creating handshakes to in order to achieve unity of purpose and give one’s career a new lease of life.
The monstrous career-killer crocodiles tend to be corruption, misappropriation of resources and mismanagement of workplace relationships. They challenge the concept and inherent value of “bridges” and “handshakes” because they are social vices as well. The corporate and public sector workplace is awash with examples of global leaders, CEOs, presidents and even religious leaders that have irreparably wrecked their careers.
Outside of the organisation, building bridges and brokering handshakes to successfully walk the career path and reach that dream job will involve re-connecting with professional associations, influential contacts (social, political and professional), and placement firms. Re-charting ones career path could also take the form of entrepreneurial activities such as consultancy which largely thrives on networks. Without compromising on their service to their employer, an enterprising employee can develop side-hassles in areas they are passionate about which may not necessarily be related to their current career.
In addition, it would be beneficial to “build bridges”’ and look to develop one’s career beyond the industry, country or continent.
In the spirit of the “handshake”, ethnicity or race should be ignored and people free to explore career opportunities in the public or private sectors devoid of judgement or bias based on race, beliefs, gender or ones surname.
The writer is director of human resources and administration at Isuzu EA Ltd.