WITH so much uncertainty in the world of work, the chances of experiencing a career setback are increasing, and you need to constantly manage and develop your career.
Many people think that quitting their job and moving on to another one or changing careers will solve their “problem” or “challenge”. Others think that going on long sabbaticals is the answer to dealing with frequent change. It is in situations like these that I often “prescribe” a career retreat.
What is a career retreat?
A career retreat is an opportunity to analyse your current job, review your work assets and liabilities, prioritise important tasks ahead and manage your career purposefully.
The retreat sets the stage for working on your career, in contrast to your day-to-day efforts to manage your job or career. Career retreats set the tone and direction in which you should be heading. They give you the opportunity to really review your victories, achievements and successes.
A career retreat also gives you an opportunity to see with a fresh perspective your current problems, challenges, setbacks and other difficulties you may experience.
Retreats can be as short as several days or as long as a month. They can focus on a single issue or be structured to address many concerns. A career retreat can alter the way you approach and think about your career.
Why do a career retreat?
One of the key reasons for needing a career retreat is that you may feel a loss of direction in your current job. A career retreat will help you revisit your career vision, goals and values. If your job or career is not clearly aligned to them, it is inevitable you will experience career dysfunction.
Sometimes due to changes in personal or family circumstances, your career objectives and purposes may change too. A career retreat is an ideal way to engage in a comprehensive review of your life, personal issues, work and career.
Taking a step back at a career retreat helps you to look at things more objectively. You start asking why you chose your present career. This is a basic but critical question that many people hardly ponder in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Being on a career retreat empowers you to ask important questions and get answers that may help you create a new framework for your career.
The next step of your career retreat is to define the challenge or crossroads you find yourself at. Failing to define a problem correctly often leads to an inappropriate or wrong solution.
For example, work overload does not happen by accident. The root cause could be your inability to assert yourself and say “no” to unreasonable demands or schedules.
Or maybe you accepted your current job without pinning down its scope because you were mesmerised by the large salary and attractive benefits. Now you feel “owned” by your employer and overwhelmed by the job.
Replicating best practices
Successful people know what they do best and focus their efforts on where they are able to shine. Try to remember the times in your career when everything seemed to go right; all the planning and training paid off and things fell into place.
It is important to capture those moments of brilliance and dissect them so they can be replicated. It is exploiting these moments of brilliance and making them happen more often that will spiral you upwards and forwards.
A career retreat will give you the opportunity to reflect on these moments and explore them minutely. It also provides an excellent opportunity to take a step back to identify your outstanding career qualities.
Successful career retreats
What does it take to have a successful retreat? From the outset, you need to view the retreat as an investment in building your career. You will have to put in some effort to plan for it, including taking the time off from work for the actual retreat. You may even decide that it makes sense to consult a career management professional to guide your career retreat experience.
Organisations periodically conduct retreats for their senior executives to review and re-strategise their business. Find out if your employer offers such opportunities, and how you sign up for one. If not, do some research and commit to going on a retreat to review and re-strategise your career. After all, your career is “your business” too.
Article by Kamal Kant, a part-time lecturer in careers, employment relations and management at Nanyang Technological University and SIM Global Education. He conducts career workshops and career coaching in his spare time.