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October 2019
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career planning

What Darwin Teaches Us About Strengths and Career Planning

Posted by: Emma Trenier

 

Depending upon the season, there can be as many as 58 distinct species of birds inhabiting the Galapagos Islands. During his voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin puzzled over how so many different types of finches could not only survive together, but thrive on the island food chain. The conclusion he described years later was ‘variation and differentiation’.

 

In essence, variation and differentiation are at the heart of adaptability. For the Galapagos finches, they are the means by which so many different birds make a place for themselves and survive.

 

As we seek to carve out the niches of our own careers, we are more adaptable to changing environments when we are able to do the same. As we present ourselves in ways that differentiate us from others, we are more likely to adapt and find a unique space within our ever changing environments.

 

One of the most effective ways to do this is through showcasing and harnessing the unique combination and profile of our strengths.

 

As Greater London Authority (GLA) employees come out the other side of the Olympic Games, many have been educating themselves to identify the skills and strengths that they have gained through this life changing experience. Most importantly, they have been articulating how their strengths differentiate them, enabling them to make their greatest contribution at GLA.

 

Organisations that enable employees to develop their careers by identifying their strengths help them in turn to recognise where they can make their greatest contributions. As a result, they prevent the most talented from being attracted by bright and shiny opportunities elsewhere, because they have found their niche in the food chain of their existing organisation. They also build a culture which allows growth and adaptability to blossom – like the Galapagos Islands.

 

Through celebrating then harnessing the different strengths profiles of your employees, enabling them to deliver their best performances through using their strengths, you create a fertile organisational ecology that allows everyone to flourish. Just as Darwin found 180 years ago, differentiation leads to maximization.

 

Explore what your own unique strengths profile through the 60 strengths of Realise2, and see what you can do to differentiate yourself with your strengths.

 

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Don’t Despair: Why Your Planned Career Path isn’t the “Be All and End All”

Posted by: Alex Linley, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight

 

With A-level results just around the corner, and Scottish Highers results released yesterday, there’s a big, pervasive myth that we need to dispel:

 

It isn’t the end of the world if you didn’t get the grades you need. In fact, it might just be the best thing that ever happened to you.

 

I didn’t make the grade when I applied to Oxford University while doing my A-levels. In fact, I didn’t even want to go to university at that point, but I reached an agreement with my dad (who hadn’t gone to university, and so was desperate for me to do so), that I would go for one year and see how I got on…

 

So, off I duly went to the University of Leeds to start a four-year Russian and Philosophy degree, with the first year being entirely Russian to bring us all up to A-level standard in that year. And guess what – after one year, just as agreed – I left (albeit with a 2:1 and a Fail in Phonetics), because I didn’t want to be there.

 

Many adventures later (having worked in Moscow, run my own business, and stacked books in a book warehouse), I decided that I was ready to go to university – and so Leicester it was, this time to read Psychology. Warwick followed Leicester as I did my PhD before going back to Leicester as a Lecturer, which even then was just the prelude to starting Capp.

 

Could I have predicted any of this at the tender age of 17 years when I was making my university choices and completing my A-levels? Not a chance! In fact, as I often say to my children when they ask about careers – “My job didn’t even exist when I was at school – I invented it.

 

The upshot of this is that I don’t believe that anyone should be constrained by the career path they might have in mind at 17, 18, 19 years – or indeed any age – because there is always so much that can and will happen, that we just can’t predict. As a result, I say to my children, “Do what you enjoy and what you’re good at, work hard (always work hard), and then see what opportunities you can create...”

 

And contrary to the received wisdom, this is actually how careers develop for many of us, as Herminia Ibarra shows in her excellent book.

 

So if you, your son or daughter, or a young person you are helping, find that things didn’t quite work out as planned with your A-level results, don’t despair!

 

It could well be that you are just taking the path that so many of us take, the one that is emergent (and I think exciting), rather than the one that is prescribed and carefully planned.

 

After all, this indirect path that makes the most of what we have, rather than lamenting what we don’t have, is so often the route to an even better future than we imagined.

 

Has this indirect career path been your experience through life? Share your learnings with others through using the Comment function on The Capp Blog below.

 

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