Archive for April, 2007|Monthly archive page

Protected: Week 9: your vision

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Week 9: Creating and activating your vision

By the end of this week you should be able to:


  • identify your values with respect to returning to work in SET
  • set clear and achievable goals and objectives
  • identify your own strategy for returning to a SET career, either by finding employment, undertaking further study or becoming self employed
  • articulate your goals in the form of an action plan with SMART objectives.

Identify your values:


Defining Values are six or eight key principles that define who you are and represent the essence of your character and what you stand for.

Heart’s Purpose is the expression of your passion, your inner drive and doing what is most fulfilling for you.

Activating Vision is the ‘broad accomplishment that you want to achieve with your careeer. It is not merely a goal: it is your endgame…. It is a dream of being, rather than simply doing.’


The language makes me squirm, but the ideas are good, and similar to several exercises I’ve done in the past. However, having spoken to a few good friends, I’m becoming more aware of how little use these exercises can be to someone who isn’t particularly self-aware.

If you haven’t spent time thinking about who you are, how can you answer this type of question?

Even the personality tests offered earlier won’t give a meaningful answer to someone who hasn’t tried to work out what makes them tick. Now, perhaps I’m being a bit biased, but from my interviewing experience, I would say that this is more likely to describe a man than a woman. When asked “How would your friends describe you?” a disconcerting number of male applicants clam up and simply don’t know the answer. They’ve never thought about it before.


As is common with many of these activities, we are instructed to ‘be brave and think big’ when it comes to our vision. I’m sorry, but for a lot of people that is simply setting the stage for apparent failure and a resulting loss of confidence which is in no way helpful. By all means dream big, but if you can’t turn your dreams into a plan, then they will always stay as dreams and you won’t benefit other than by having a fantasy escape.


Setting goals

The SWOT analysis technique is introduced (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) in this stage of the exercise, but the technique is not explained at all.


For a short explanation, try here.


Goals should be positive (I want, rather than I don’t want) and should have measures of progress built into them.


Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).


An alternative to Achievable is Agreed (not mentioned on the course) as none of us will be able to achieve our goals alone. Any changes we make are bound to affect those around us, and unless we have their agreement and support, we’re unlikely to make much progress.


Creating an action plan

We are supposed to use the OUs software (Profile) to do this. Not going there! It requires me to run a windows computer, is painfully clanky, and won’t be accessible once this course is over (the only windows machine we have was set up for this course, and will return to Linux just as soon as it’s over – I want my computer back!).


A good action plan should include:


  • Description of goal
  • What it will involve
  • Exactly how you will do this
  • Resources needed
  • When you are going to do it
  • Possible consequences for yourself and others
  • Any barriers that need to be overcome

More on that later.


Week 8: Communication and negotiation

By the end of this week you should be able to:

  • understand the importance and relevance of communication skills
  • understand the concept of Emotional Intelligence and how this relates to communication in the workplace
  • find out more about your own Emotional Intelligence and identify further development if necessary
  • apply the concepts of Emotional Intelligence to an interview situation and in negotiations
  • identify good practice in negotiations
  • understand your own behaviour within negotiations and improve on it.

Uncomfortable stuff, most of this….


The concept of Emotional Intelligence is explored:

Mayer and Salovey (1993) organised EI into four branches:

Identifying emotions – the ability to recognise one’s own feelings and the feelings of those around them.

Using emotions – the ability to access an emotion and reason with it.

Understanding emotions – emotional knowledge, the ability to identify and comprehend the emotional chain – the transition of one emotion to another.

Managing emotions – the ability to self-regulate emotions and manage them in others.


These skills are looked at in the context of interviews and Negotiation.

Interestingly, both examples for successful negotiation given on the course were women who were negiotiating conditions prior to taking a career break. We were not provided with any examples of women who had successfully negotiated a return to a new position in SET after a break with unusual conditions (part-time or whatever).

Week 7: Finding the opportunity you want

By the end of the week you should:

  • be familiar with a range of online job search resources
  • know how to find the hidden job market
  • be able to adapt your CV for a specific purpose
  • understand how assessment tests are used by employers
  • know where to locate further training and education.

Again, all very useful skills.

Jobhunting generally starts with newspapers and the internet (The Jobhunter’s Bible is a good starting point), although we’re reminded that most vacancies are never advertised.
The Windmills Virtual Career Coach website is provided by the University of Liverpool’s careers department and has a good section on the hidden job market.

Psychometric tests are commonly used by recruiters, and information on these can be found on the following websites:

Prospects web page on Exercises used at assessment centres – a basic version of Briggs–Myers personality types from the BBC – quite fun and free! explains the Myers–Briggs philosophy – free online personality test (although you do have to pay to get a full report)

Other options mentioned briefly are teaching, further training, and becoming self-employed.

(Reference sources are Prowess,Women’s Business Development Agency, Aurora Women’s Network,Everywoman, and Mumpreneurs )

Week 6: What’s going on in your industry?

By the end of this week you should be able to:


  • identify useful resources specific to your industrial sector
  • be aware of the latest trends and issues
  • refresh your study skills (by reading and taking notes from a journal article)
  • consider career options relevant to your background and experience.


All good points, and useful skills, and I’ve done as much as I can. I’m feeling a bit of a fraud though, as I’m becoming more and more convinced (as, it seems, are lots of senior women in the UK) that a career in SET isn’t compatible with the kind of life, and quality of life, that I want.


Points of reference for career paths provided by the OU are:

Week 5: Women and SET – your ideal job

Imagine what you would like to do and the sort of environment you would ideally like to work in.

Obviously a very good idea, as before you can find your job, you need to know what you’re looking for. However, the overall result of the course so far has been to convince me that if I stay in SET I have two choices, neither of them good.

  1. To fight my way back into SET and focus on my career to the exclusion of family/personal life.
  2. To fight my way back into SET and accept that I will miss out on promotion, leadership and other ‘markers of success’ if we as a couple decide to have a family.

As I said, neither prospect is particularly appealing.

I’m ambitious, focussed and driven: I would hate to be passed over and seen as less-committed just because I was known to have a child. Sadly, the examples on the course confirm that this attitude is still incredibly common. I’m also not ambitious or driven enough to be willing to sacrifice the very good relationship I have with my partner in order to be a success in any career. He’s the same, so it’s not that I’m going to be a traditional wife sitting at home to make sure that darling hubby can be a big cheese either!

To return to the question….

My ideal job will include the following (not in order of priority):

  • the opportunity to increase my knowledge/experience
  • the opportunity to use and/or share my knowledge/experience
  • the potential for progression to a leadership role
  • a high level of autonomy and personal responsibility
  • a pleasant, supportive working environment (and yes, I consider a lab to be a pleasant place, even if you are working with thiols!)
  • flexible holiday provision (I’m not one to enjoy an enforced 2-week break)
  • a level of reward which I consider shows that I am valued, including the possibility of a pension scheme and other non-financial benefits if appropriate
  • a commute of no more than 45 minutes in each direction each day!

Things I need in my life which may or may not be part of a job:

  • creativity
  • social interaction
  • thinking space