It Usually Pays Off to Help Employees Follow Their Dream

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I became an accountant because accountants are the career choice of my family. We are a family of accountants. But when I spent my first week for one of the Big 4 firms, I knew that I could not do this for my entire life.”

“I became a lawyer because my mother and father were both lawyers. I never gave it much thought, only that I knew I would become a lawyer. I enjoyed law school and it was only when I got my first real job as a lawyer that I knew that this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I just could not fathom doing this for 30 plus years.”

Both of these conversations with friends over the years came back to me this week when I read an article in Arab News concerning Saudi Arabian youth and their career choice. The title of the article was Young Saudis pursue career dreams despite the odds.

There were two profiles in this article; one was a filmmaker and the other a chef. Both faced difficulty within their families because “their” career choices were for them to become an engineer and a medical doctor.

If you are asked give it, but if not, shut up

As parents, we all want the best for our kids, and in some ways, we do more harm than good getting involved in someone’s career choice. If our opinion is asked, we give it. If not, do everyone a favor and just shut up.

Both these Saudi individuals became successful in their own right, despite their parents wishes. My friends quoted at the top of the article also bounced back and are very successful in “their” chosen area of expertise: Career counselor and magazine editor.

Organizations today are full of individuals who are in the wrong careers. They sit out there every day, on your dime, and dream of another profession. This causes frustration within the workplace because frequently, the reason for managers and workers acting out is that they are working where they do not want to be.

Jack of all trades? Forget about it

I get request and unsolicited emails all the time for people looking for a “job” or as one person said, “any job.” While I will always respond to anyone that reaches out, the “any job” comment causes what hair I have left to stand up.

That almost always will push me to follow-up with a phone call. My position is that you are in charge of it and you should not be a jack of all trades. Nobody today who is looking for talent is looking for a jack of all trades.

I often think of what an organization would look if everyone was doing exactly what they wanted. The vast majority of workers that you have now would no longer be there.

Your workplace would instead be populated with engaged, determined and focused individuals. Your business would be highly innovative and successful. Imagine walking into any business or organization and seeing everyone exhibiting signs of engagement. Their enthusiasm would be contagious; the employees would really function as a team. The clock on the wall would become a decorative ornament.

I applauded Zappos for their policy of paying new recruits who aren’t fitting in to leave. That cost of $2,000 is miniscule compared to the damage that it would cost for having this type individual populate your workplace. And, it’s all because they were looking for a job and never figured out what they wanted to do.

Following the dream and never giving up

Organizations should be concerned about their employee’s choice of careers. We have all witnessed people who have dreams of being elsewhere, wherever that is.

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I knew a young man who was a painter, and every conversation we had would always end up with him talking about his dream of moving to France and becoming a painter. Painting was what he did in his spare time. His workspace was populated with his sketches, and he eventually purchased a house in France.

As I moved on, I closely followed his career. Years later after we had lost touch, I saw an article that he was coming back to New York City to exhibit his paintings. We connected again and I cannot tell you how excited and proud I was for him.

Yes, Mr. James Teschner is a world-renowned artist that kept the dream alive. When the time came, he flew the coop and followed the dream.

Our workers sometime will need guidance, and we should be as upfront as possible.

To help the young generation make the right choices regarding majors and careers out here in Saudi Arabia, Rawabi Holdings Group of Companies, located in Al Khobar, has created Youth Empowerment Programs.

Your company should have a career department

“Everybody in Saudi Arabia wants his child to be either a doctor or an engineer whether he has the potential or not. We try to lead each individual to what he wants to do in life,” said Farah Al-Ghamdi, Corporate Social Responsibility Officer at Rawabi Holdings.

Whereas colleges have career departments, it probably would not be a bad idea to create one in-house in your organization. You could probably make a serious dent in your engagement numbers as a result.

So next time you walk through the workplace and notice that an employee is looking off in the distance, it could be that they are dreaming of their career. And just maybe, it is not the career your organization is offering.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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