All’s quiet on the work front

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the day job.  The reason: I’m burnt.

Crispy critters.  Toasty-oats.  Done like the proverbial dinner.

I’ve been burned out since April or thereabouts.  It was about the same time that two things occurred to me:

  1. Regardless how well I plan and how hard I work, someone will inevitably ask me to throw everything out the window and do something completely different.
  2. Regardless how well I do, I will never be a regional consultant on a permanent basis.

I was just coming down off the high of achieving my training certification and eager to begin the next phase of my development as a certified trainer.  First, I’d have to assess a few other candidates, and then I could begin to coach.

In the next breath, I was told that the certification program was on hold.  Our internal college was in transition and it was unknown when the program would resume.  To date, I have heard nothing.

Though my performance and learning agreement (PLA) was fairly glowing, I knew I would not remain with the team.

I knew this to begin with.  My assignment was part of a deal and was never intended to be permanent.  It was difficult to hang onto this reality when everyone on my old team was telling me that I wouldn’t be returning.  My star was ascending.

Everyone on my new team was eager to keep me.  To his credit, my  new manager never so much as implied there was a possibility.  Fair enough.

I applied for two other positions, both of which I was screened out of because I lacked the requisite experience.  The only way to gain said experience?  At-level assignments, staffed through unofficial expressions of interest.

By the time summer arrived, I didn’t really want to remain a consultant, at least not in the position of regional training coordinator.  The landscape of the program I administered was ever-changing, and, as I mentioned above, all my hard work was largely disregarded.

Then I had to work even harder, and those efforts, too, ended up going to waste.

I began to hope that I would return to my substantive position, despite the reduction in salary.

Unexpectedly, the consultant pool I was in was extended to the end of August, incidentally the end of my acting assignment.  A couple of consultants had retired, and I felt that I might obtain one of those positions.

Until I learned that regionally, consultants were being centralized.  Now, if I wanted to be a consultant, I’d have to move, disrupting Phil and his job, and leaving both of our mothers (still independent, but aging) without a significant part of their support systems.

I’d already made it clear when I made the pool that I would not be moving.

So now, due to geography (ridiculous because most of our work is virtual) I am out of the running, even though my pool has been extended again, to the end of September.  It’s sad, because I have skills that are in demand.

Despite fishing my wish and getting back on the training team, it’s not the same.  I can’t help but feel that it’s a kind of failure.  I know that this is not the case, but my feelings are what they are.  I also feel bitter.

There was a time when I thought I would never be able to rise very far in the ranks.  Though my office is a hub, there weren’t very many opportunities for advancement.

That changed and I moved up two pay grades in as many years.  Now I feel that again, I’m “stuck.”

Don’t get me wrong, the training team is great and our manager is awesome.  The phrase “force of nature” comes to mind when I think of her.  I used to be so happy.  I thought I’d found my work “home” and was content to stay there.

It’s hard to go back when you’ve had your world expanded, though.

I’m just totally burnt out.  Most days I wake up asking myself if I can, in fact, go to work.  I’m so disappointed when I can’t find a reason to stay home.

So I’m going to be taking some time away from work starting October 15.  I’m hoping that the time off will allow me to address some of the negative feelings I have and return to work in a positive and productive frame of mind.

Priorities.  While I have debt, I need to keep them straight.

Does your day job get you down?  Do you have any options that can help you to recapture your love for your job?

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Adventures in professional development October 2012

In-person team meeting, Oct 16-17

My team works virtually.  We’re scattered all over Ontario and so when we can meet in person, we take the opportunity.

This year, our in person team meeting was held in Toronto and we assembled from our respective offices: Timmins, Sudbury, Scarborough, and Chatham, to meet with the three of our colleagues that lived and worked in Toronto.

The focus of the meeting was professional development, but there were a couple of specific things that we had to accomplish: review our accomplishments to date, and plan our activities for the remainder of the year.

My team is diverse with respect to skills and relative areas of expertise.  I contribute to subject matter expertise in my business line, technical, facilitation, instructional design, and other communications skills.  Others bring subject matter expertise in other business lines, project management, instructional design, presentation, and specific business communication skills.  Some have great budget management skills and a holistic knowledge of our business that I lack.

We all come together to support one another and get things done.  As the result of our accomplishments/planning session, I once more find myself entering uncharted territory and helping to put together professional learning agreement (PLA) templates for various positions my business line.  This will be interesting work.

In the professional development category, we were reintroduced to a tool called the Passport to Service Excellence (PSE), which is supposed to help us chart our career path.  Talent management is something still fairly new and very much in development at my employer.

We have several tools and platforms to help us do this.  One is, of course, the PLA, where outside our departmental mandate and goals, we list activities that we would like to engage in and what positions we’d like to move into, job shadowing or acting roles we might like to adopt.

There is a Renewal Gateway site onto which we can post our resumes and where managers from various departments are supposed to look for individuals to suit their needs.  There are also formal and informal assessment processes for various jobs occurring all the time.  There is the PSE, and I’ll be helping out with another project geared to assist employees in planning their professional development activities in the coming weeks.

It seems to me that there’s a little too much duplication in these tools.  So if I were to take a course, I would have to update my own resume, the one posted on the Gateway, then open up my PLA and list it there, go to the PSE and make the appropriate alterations there, and soon possibly also update the new tool that’s being proposed.

That’s a lot of work.  It’s almost enough to make one reconsider taking part in any professional development activity.

What would be better is to work into one of the tools the ability to export information into other forms.  So that if I complete a course, I then go into one tool, for sake of argument, the PSE, update it, and then have the tool communicate with and update the other tools (PLA, resumes, etc.)  It makes sense to me, but when I made the suggestion, it seemed something beyond what could be provided.

This kind of thing happens a lot at my employer.

The Business Expertise Forum, Oct 29-31

Along with the SMART Board training that I delivered with my colleague Monica in September, I was to deliver a workshop at the BE Forum.  It soon turned out to be three workshops offered to a portion of the attendees in rotation with two other presentations.

Monica ended up having to deliver other training and couldn’t help me, so I said for convenience’s sake that I’d deliver the workshops solo.

I thought I’d have time in October to develop the presentation, handout, and complete the work necessary to have a translated version of the handout ready in time.  Unfortunately, other priorities emerged.  My job as training coordinator is not a boring one, to be sure.

Then two days before I was off on leave to attend a writing conference, one of my team mates volunteered to co-facilitate.  At that point, I didn’t really have the presentation hammered out, but I gratefully accepted the offer and shared what I could put together in a day.

Another issue was that the training room that I was assigned and that I wanted to get in early to set up was in use the day previous.

So making the best of the chaos, I travelled down with my colleague and attended the first part of the Forum.  There were a pile of work friends from various departments and locations that I got to see again.

Our regional head delivered a welcome address and expressed interest in attending the SMART Board workshop.  <gulp!>  Fortunately, her schedule was too full to allow it, but I had a momentary wiggins 🙂

One of my training team colleagues did a presentation on creating a quality monitoring program.  She’d been called in at the last minute when the original presenter was unable to attend.

Finally, at the end of the day, I got into the training room, hooked up my computer, and tested the SMART Board out.  Joy.  Everything was working.  Linda and I started to go through the workshop and had to finish off our mini-run through the next morning, as the training rooms were being locked down for the night.

Ultimately, all went well, and I ended up having a great time.  I went out with all of my work friends and caught a couple of great presentations, on training in a multi-generational environment and on managing transitions (another course that I will be delivering at some point in the future).

Now I’m in recovery 🙂

On taking breaks and lunches

One of the other things that came out of my team’s in-person meeting was that we all need to take care of ourselves.  A former member of the team, who’d left it prior to my coming on-board in May, had passed away in the summer at the young age of 51.

So we were all encouraged to take our lunches and breaks, and to take care of ourselves.

I have to confess that I haven’t taken more than a handful of legitimate lunches or breaks since starting with the team.  I tend to take on too much.  I know this about myself, but when I have something that I’m interested in, I can’t help myself.

Unfortunately, the things I’m interested in are not the kinds of things anyone else shares a passion for.  So I end up being a niche specialist because no one else has the time or aptitude to take up the torch.

I’ll have to let you know how my quest for personal time and balance at work goes.

The Learning Mutt has a couple of weeks at home before she’s on the road again, and hopefully for the last time this year …  I can dream, and whuffle in my sleep 😉

My first “real” working group

It was an education, that’s for sure.

Ostensibly, I was brought in to advise the group regarding training and supports for a new unit that the working group was to establish.  They’d already been meeting for some time and I had a fair bit of catching up to do.  A further complication was that while there were several members of the group in my office, it was a virtual group.  We met by teleconference.

I got the notification while I was out of town, training.  At first, I thought it must have been a mistake, but I was soon set straight.

I’d never done anything of this nature before, and I was flattered that my manager and director had recommended me for the group, but I was completely out of my depth.

With the responsibility came the looming possibility of a needs analysis.  I didn’t think I knew how to do that.  I started searching the Intranet, found a few ideas, canvassed my colleagues, and got a few more.  Then I started Googling and that’s when things got really interesting.

Here are a few samples of the kinds of things I found:

Of all the resources I’d gathered, many were vague, some differing, and a few in outright opposition.  Most weren’t recent.

I even discussed the topic with my husband Phil, who was going through something similar at work.  What he recommended was a process analysis.  Essentially, the work to be done is broken down into its component steps, and then each step analyzed and potentially broken down further.  With a process analysis, task competencies could be easily identified, and from that, training specific to those competencies determined.  It could also be the basis for procedure and/or policy, or even a screening tool for candidates.  I liked the efficiency of the concept, and found it a reasonable proposal.

The unit had yet to be approved though, and so the people working in it couldn’t be officially identified, nor could the new unit or its potential requirements be discussed withanyone outside the working group.

How was I supposed to determine what training and supports might be necessary for a group of people who had yet to be named?  The process analysis still stood out for me as a solution.  The suggestion was not received with enthusiasm, however.

I had no experience.  I didn’t know how these things worked.  The project lead took my under her wing.  Another member of the group who’d had more experience in working groups than I, was also generous with her time and helped me to understand how things were supposed to go.

We were to cast our net wide, and think of all the possible courses that might be required by the unknown members of the proposed unit.  I researched, obtained estimates for training costs, and started to work on a self-study course for one of the applications that the staff would be using.  I also suggested a SharePoint site, which the group did set up and begin using.

Then we discovered that there was no budget, and most of my work had to be abandoned, the arragnements I’d tentatively made cancelled, and apologies and gratitude distributed tactfully.

About that time, things started getting hectic in my personal life.  My father “took a turn,” as they say, and passed away a week later.  After the family time I’d taken to stay with him during his illness, and my bereavement leave, I was approved for a number of additional weeks of annual and self-funded leave.

When I finally returned, the project and the nature of the unit had changed completely.  The necessary training was accomplished in my absence, my training course was not used, and the working group ceased to meet shortly thereafter.

It felt … anticlimactic.

It was an interesting experience and I certainly learned a lot (mostly about myself).

  • I will dive into a new project, even if I have no idea what it is about.
  • I’m a good researcher, so long as I have a defined goal.
  • I’m not confident in proposing my own ideas.
  • I will defer to the current authority.
  • I’ll adopt current procedures, even if I don’t see the value in them.
  • I’ll pursue my own goals and projects on the side (subversive me).
  • I’ll totally forgive myself when life happens.
  • I know my real priorities.

I still think the process analysis would have worked 🙂

Have you ever been thrown into the deep end?  Did you sink or swim?  Did something else happen?  I like to think I dog-paddled my way to the shallows where other priorities arose and by the time I was ready to dive back in, everyone else left the pool.  Special projects and working groups can be great learning experiences, but they can also be trials.

An idea that didn’t go anywhere …

"Here Lies a Good Idea. Don't Let Your Id...

“Here Lies a Good Idea. Don’t Let Your Idea Die. Put it in the Suggestion Box Today” – NARA – 514482 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So last year I had this idea for a way to evolve training for both our clients and our staff.

Essentially, the idea was to have online, self-study, or asynchronous, courses for our client groups, to teach them about our business, what we could do for them, and how to make the most of our service offerings.

A secondary tier, or phase, of the training would have introduced clients to the way we do our work, a kind of insider’s guide, which I termed a certification program.  Taking some of these more advanced courses could have been an asset for our hiring group, so that when jobs were posted, the links to these courses could be included, and completing them could give applicants an advantage, because they would have some knowledge of our business and the work that we do.

Internally, our training products could be converted to online, self-study materials as well, designed to harmonize with the public ones, and in conjunction with informal learning strategies like coaching and mentoring, replace the costly and time-consuming, in-class training we now provide.

I contacted a colleague to get her opinion, and she graciously offered to give me a venue to discuss the concept and get some feedback.  I had never written a proposal in our business before, nor did I know how to go about gaining approval for my idea.

While the session was great and I got some serious validation for the idea, I didn’t get much with respect to next steps.  There was a plan in the works for a kind of online suggestion box for employee ideas, but that wouldn’t be up and running until sometime in the next fiscal year.  Aside from that, I really didn’t have any kind of internal platform to promote the idea, gain support, and move forward with it.

I did follow up with some key management figures from other departments, and tried to escalate the idea through my own management team, but didn’t get much response with respect to who I could approach next, or support with respect to how I could present the idea.

I had to be set it aside for the time being.

Though the suggestion box was eventually launched in September of 2011, and I submitted my idea in early October, I haven’t heard anything since.

Maybe my employer isn’t ready to enact my idea yet.

Still, I think it was pretty good, and even if it doesn’t go anywhere, I consider it to be one of my accomplishments.

Have you had an idea that you weren’t sure how to promote or what to do with?  Who did you approach and where did it go from there?