Friday, July 18, 2008


I've been exploring career opportunities lately, and re-examining my options and future plans. It isn't easy, since I don't seem to fit into any of the pigeonholes recruitment agencies are looking to fill... and, bless them, a lot of recruitment types don't really understand the world of L&D enough to be able to cope with anything other than an exact fit. In this weird world of ours, how many exact fits are there? Not a lot!

Anyhoo, I was walking in town today and passed a young beggar sitting on the pavement. At the same time, an unkempt man wearing a denim version of a monk's cossack was walking by. He turned on the young man and, from a distance of several metres, in front of a large number of people, shouted (and I mean shouted) at him "With all due respect. You are young. You look healthy. With all due respect. Go get yourself a job instead of sitting there begging. With all due respect."

The poor youngster went red to the roots of his hair, and opened his mouth to defend himself, but the 'friar' was striding away, having set the world to rights. The lad did mutter something like "I've tried..." just in case any of the passersby thought the less of him following the outburst.

I suspect that the self-styled friar was suffering from some form of mental illness, so it would be unfair to run through the list of what was wrong with his approach. However, at least he had that as an excuse! What is the excuse of those of our profession who march into a room full of strangers, make no attempt to find out what they already know, what they need to know, what they plan to achieve once they know it; subject them to a barrage of unidirectional information dump; get them to fill in a happy sheet and expect them to either (a) go back to their jobs and do them better or (b) GO GET A JOB

I have been feeling increasingly like an eclectically shaped peg in a traditionally shaped hole, and for reasons both personal and professional (is there a difference?) feel the need to move on to other pastures. However, even armed with 20 years of experience and a postgrad education (as well as bucketloads of informal learning which matters little to the recruiters, sadly), I am finding it tough and soul destroying. Which meant my heart went out to the poor lad on the pavement today. Go get a job, indeed.


Jason Allen said...

A few years ago while doing some training for a client in Central America, the client said "There are some people, who fix cars, and when the new car comes out, they patiently wait to be trained on how to fix it, and then go about their job accordingly.
There are others, who when the new car comes out, get their hands on every magazine and blog article they can find, and then go out and find and example of the car, and tear it down and rebuild it."
The client said that I was one of the latter when it came to training, and not the former, which I took as the highest compliment.
Judging from what I read, you fall very much into the same category, and I find your blog inspiring and (not to use a dirty word) educational.
The short answer is that you ARE an eliptical peg in a round hold - and in my limited experience with large corporations - we don't fit.
I would seriously consider hanging out a shingle, and startng to charge for some of your insight and creativity - it's certainly where I'm going in the next couple years.
All the best.

Anonymous said...

@jammasterjay Wow, that was quick. I only hit publish a few minutes ago! And I could hug you for the encouragement - it was sorely needed today.

Excellent metaphor, and to stick with it, I find myself currently looking at a host of things and wondering which of them I should focus on learning about. I'm at that 'don't know what I don't know, don't know what I need to know' stage.

I've often thought about 'hanging out a shingle' as you put it - I've been freelance before - but there's a lot to being a freelancer, and, when you have a FAT mortgage to pay, you have to be pragmatic.

Sigh. Pragmatic. Not the first word that comes to people's minds when the describe me ;o)

The way things are squeezing me at the moment, though, I might soon be forced to take a deep breath and step off the edge.

Anonymous said...


I can fully understand your feelings whereas I have been feeling the same things myself. It is not easy to know you don't fit the situation.

Your talented and in time the right opportunity will happen.

Good Luck

Harold Jarche said...

I went out on my own when I lost my last job. I was fired/quit on the same day, and in my mid-forties. After a couple of years I had a slow period and went out into the job market, applying for dozens of jobs for which I met the stated criteria in experience and credentials. I got one job interview.

This experience led me understand that I'm not really employable in the industrial sense. I ask too many questions (like you) and I'm trying to figure out better ways of doing things. My wife has even told me that I would not be happy having a full-time job, so I've come to understand that my situation is probably the best for me. It's not easy financially, but after five years I'm still plugging away.

From what I know of you, Karyn, you have all the attributes of a good consultant. Maybe it's time to take the plunge? There is a great worldwide support group :-)

Carlos said...


I know how you feel. My contract was not renewed a couple months ago and I've been thinking about what I really want to do other than go back to school for round 3 (the PhD madness) but, like you, I feel like I can't fit nicely into employers' preconcieved notions of who's the best fit for what position.

Keep your chin up, whatever is meant to happen will happen regardless of how much we fret about it :-)

Anonymous said...

@harold Thanks for the encouragement, but I'm not sure I'm strong enough in any one area to be able to consult in it. The thing I'm strongest at is the one thing that businesses don't seem to think is needed for corporate learning/training interventions, namely an understanding of learning. I will, however, re-read your post slowly and see what I can unpack from it.

@Carlos "Who by worrying can add a cubit to his stature?" I hear you, but I worry, just the same. And I am NOT, repeat NOT going down the PhD route. I have decided that full time, focused, disciplined, academic research is just not me! I hope things work out for you.

Wendy said...

Karyn - Saw Timothy Johnson's recent post and thought "perfect"!

I know it's really hard to be that rock star when your confidence has been ground down to little bits of dust.

I've learned that the biggest periods of doubt and worry precede the biggest, most positive changes. Most recently illustrated by the November/December shingles episode and job change.

When the time is right, you'll know what to do and the right opportunity will present itself.

At least you now have the attention of your edublogger friends! I'll keep an eye out for you.

Anonymous said...

@Wendy Thanks for the encouragement, and the link. And you're right - things that look like a disaster at the time take on a totally different look when viewed with hindsight.

Scott D. McArthur said...

For me it is about enthusiasm - I would hire oomph over content 9 times out of 10 - especially in consulting where I work! Really realate to your story and the young lad - keep smiling and imagine what you are looking for and I promise it will come!

Anonymous said...

@scott Oomph I have. By the bucketload. Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Karyn, as many have underlined, you will make a wonderful consultant. I am not able to grasp, you have cleared doubts for me, who is just stepping into this learning. You make it so crystal clear, just above you linked it to the young person's story and made it so interesting. What more can a training want? I feel frustrated as I read this. They just want people who would say yes to every silly thing. You write beautifully. Can you try your hand at that? Often when I am stressed, like Carlos Ph.D seems so much better than this. Maybe this is a phase Karyn and will move like a little piece of cloud that floats away. Don't worry. Can I do some thing for you in India?
To take your mind off from this for a while, what happened to that girl with the cat. I was thinking of asking you about her. Did she respond to your smile? You might like to see this clip about a very interesting movie on dyslexia. Knowing you I know you will love the story and the presentation in this movie. It says alot about the way learning is forced and becomes a punisment. The link:

Love and hugs.

Anonymous said...

@rina Thanks for the offer, but I don't think India is an option for me at the moment. Mind you, I was recently being headhunted by an Indian company with a huge UK presence, then they changed their minds, giving a rather feeble excuse, so I'm not sure what really caused the volte face.

The little girl with the cat is still drifting around my neighbourhood. We smile and wave at each other, and I expect I will soon have the opportunity to talk to her.

Thanks for the link. I haven't watched it, yet, because I don't want to disturb the people in the office. I will have a look at it shortly, when they all go off to a workshop (I drew the short straw and get to stay here so that there is someone to answer the phones).

Anonymous said...

I've known quite a few real-life monks. Those who still wear cassocks in public are few; those who take it upon themselves to upbraid others in public, fewer yet.

Advice for Mr. Denim from someone familiar with religiously-righteous reprimand:

Then gently scan your brother man
Still gentler sister woman;
Tho’ they may gang a kennin wrang, To step aside is human:
One point must still be greatly dark,—
The moving Why they do it;
And just as lamely can ye mark,
How far perhaps they rue it.

Anonymous said...

@Dave Neatly put. Indeed, there was much that could have been said of and to Mr Denim, and I have at my fingertips a great many Scriptural extracts which fitted the situation.

However, as I mentioned, I think he had some mental illness (there were indicators other than this incident, but I won't go there for now). It is highly unlikely that he was gainfully employed, himself. I don't think it would have benefitted anyone for me to take him on.

In his own way, he was as pathetic (in the proper sense of the word) as his victim.