KTH has a deal with a Starck & Partner, a company specializing in career development (leadership development, career change, rehab, outplacement etc.). I was invited to an information meeting in the beginning of March about "Life and career planning". The invitation was accompanied by a cheerful and bombastic text:
"KTH encourages both internal and external professional mobility. [...] KTH finds it important that employees have the opportunity to develop their competence and consequently retain their employability. Working at KTH is to be an active choice."
I went to the information meeting and also read the information material. It didn't tell me that much. I know for a fact and from my own experiences that it's pretty easy to get something to sound fine on paper:
"Career inventory is all about pausing to reflect about one's career, looking at it from the current situation towards a vision. What are my strengths and how can I best use them? Am I using my greatest attributes and skills in my career? [...] The goal of this program is that the client acquires a realistic strategy for his/her future planning thus allowing them to make their own conscious, active choices as co-workers according to their own situation and what is important in [their] working life."
Such a text doesn't necessarily say that much about the quality of the "product" (course) beyond the sales skills of crafting a good sales pitch. A colleague of mine had however gone through this course two years ago and he thought it was excellent. And I trust him.
And so I applied by writing a personal letter. I spent some time myself crafting that letter (three pages) and parts of it was indeed personal (not fit for publishing it on the web). I was accepted to the program and met my personal "coach"(or HR - Human Resources - consultant) for the first time at the end of last week. I will meet him every third of fourth week for a total of 5-7 meeting or so. My employer pays for the activity and I get credit for the time spent in these meeting - but I have to do the course "homework" (exercises) in my free time.
I got a binder full of exercises and material with me from the first meeting. It is divided into three parts; "What can I do", "Who am I" and "What do I want". Each of these parts are divided further and the basic idea is that I should spend time reflecting on myself, my abilities, skills, strengths, weaknesses, values, interests, wants and needs by engaging in the materials/exercises. I will then meet my coach regularly to analyze and discuss the outcome of these exercises. That's the idea and here are my reflections after the first meeting:
- My coach Jakob seems like a nice enough guy. At the end of the session, when he asked a follow-up question, I suddenly felt like I was meeting my psychologist. Not that I have one, but me and my wife have lately been watching the HBO drama series "In treatment" so I know what it's like to go to a psychologist. He should let me talk, sit and listen and then ask piercing, gnomic questions that makes me think about this-and-that. Sort of like Yoda. Ah, and I've also seen the "The Sopranos" so my second-hand experiences of going to a psychologist are thus extensive ;-) I even mentioned the déjà-vu-"In treatment"-feeling to Jacob.
- I was a little disappointed by the fact that it didn't seem like Jacob had read my three-page application. I got these vibes during our (two-hour) chat, but it felt like the issue was closed with I asked about the process of matching up persons/application with coaches/HR consultants. I got a bland answer without any references to me and my application at all. The talk was pretty good otherwise, but that was a disappointment. I should do my homework, but they don't need to?
- I have no idea of what will, or what is supposed to come out of this course (or exercise, or "product"). We talked about this during our meeting as I was supposed to have thought about this specific question in preparation for our meeting; "what do you want to get out of this?". I get the concept of a mentor (that would be someone senior to me at KTH who know the ropes at KTH and in the academic world), but I was (and still am) a little bit unsure about the role of, and my personal use of meeting a personal coach/HR consultant. But that's fine. I can live with the insecurity, I think what has happened this far is "good enough" or perhaps actually better than that, i.e. "interesting"and perhaps even "promising".
I might post something again about this course in career inventory and career planning at some later point in time (perhaps after it is finished). I have thought some of my own about "career planning" and will also write some blog posts during the spring about what (research) I want to do in the future.