Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hemmingway was a Career Coach!

Hemingway Was a Career Coach

Posted: 15 Mar 2011 10:35 PM PDT
by Peter Engler

I recently re‐read Hemingway’s brief (125 pages) but remarkable novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

It is clear to me that not only was “Papa” a unique and powerful writer, he also knew a great deal about life and its many individual achievements and unexpected challenges. He would have made an excellent career coach.

With the time‐honored privilege of editorial license afforded writers (and coaches, I hope), I have gleaned a number of themes from the novel that apply to effective career planning.

• A job search, like a fishing expedition, requires courage and faith. Santiago may have been old, but he was “cheerful and undefeated.” It was this deep sense of optimism, even at his advanced age, that caused him to think that “tomorrow is going to be a good day with this current.”

• Age should not be allowed to temper our efforts and confidence in ourselves. “Many made fun of the old man and he was not angry”.

• A job search is made easier and more successful if we learn to trust and rely on others. Santiago did not initially act on the numerous offers of help from the boy, Manolin, a hero worshiping youth from his village. As the novel progresses, he accepts the small but meaningful assistance of the boy with encouraging results.

• Set your career sights a little broader as does Santiago when he ventures farther out to sea than he has ever “fished” before.

• Take good care of yourself, stay in shape, and learn new things. Santiago was in good physical condition, maintained his boat and equipment, and was an ardent baseball fan, something thattook his mind off his unproductive fishing business. Find passions for yourself like the “the great DiMaggio.”

• Replace your youthful ambition with mature modesty and confidence as Santiago does when the boy asserts that he is the best fisherman in the village. “No, I know others [who are] better.”
• Realize that your youthful energy may have waned somewhat, and rely instead on your “tricks and resolution” to make your objectives and dreams come true. Focus on “the lions on the beach” as Santiago does in his dreams, rather than on the negative events of the past.

• “Let the current take you out to where the big fish are.” The “current” consists of career aids including LinkedIn, employment websites, Hoover’s, company websites, past associates and other resources.

• Define your targets carefully, like Santiago did, based upon where you really want to work and where you belong, “and maybe there will be a big one among the bonito and the albacore.” Find work, “a big one just made for you”, not just a job, another small fish that will not challenge or feed you.

• Just as “Albacore make beautiful bait” for Santiago, ensure that your bait (resume, bio, elevator speech, email and voice‐mail script, target list, thoughtful interview questions, etc.) is fresh and guaranteed to get a big bite. Like Santiago, who considers the fish and their needs and lives, be sure you are considering the company, their people, and their possible challenges, and be responsive to those factors in your interviews.

• Once you have created interest in yourself and they “have taken the bait,” let the company run with it as they will need a period of time to make a decision, but stay alert and close, checking in “with your fingers on the line” and anticipating various developments with thoughtful inquiries and responses.

• Continue to “re‐bait your line,” see to your health, keep “an eye on the weather” and prepare for the coming of the sharks (unexpected events that might strip the opportunity from your fishing line). Don’t give up. Santiago didn’t!

• Be prepared to finally land the great fish by anticipating how to bring it alongside your boat and securely lash it. “Clear up [your] head, clear up” as you negotiate the new opportunity and ensure that it is the right job for you with the right incentives and support elements that will assure success and happiness.

• Realize that others may never fully appreciate your achievement. Santiago’s fellow fishermen saw only a ravaged skeleton tied to his boat, “eighteen feet from nose to tail.” Only the individual fishing for that giant of all fish (or job) can fully appreciate what it means to him or her to land it, and how much meat is really on those bones (and job). Like the Old Man gently asleep at the close of the novel, happily dreaming of lions on the beach, one can only contemplate and prepare for another day at sea.

Happy Fishing!!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent advice but even better is the writing. Your new career coaches, that is our writing group, will coach you into being a writer because you're very talented and you probably will love writing more and more as you approach retirement from your previous occupations. Thank you for telling us about this column.