Friday, 14 September 2012

Career Development

At my age? I'm supposed to be waiting out the years until I can collect my pension. Yet my manager talks about "development opportunities" for me, and he means the political / people / organisational stuff that would make me promotable. Within the context of The Bank, I'm not interested: I don't want to spend my days in meetings, as everyone at the grade above mine does. They can't decide anything, they have no sign-off authority, they have no teams or resources to dispose - so I have no idea what they do in those meetings. I have no desire to do what passes for "management" at The Bank.

Can I honestly go on at The Bank until I retire? Not if they carry on short-changing us with 3%-5% real pay cuts. I'll be a poor man if I do. Promotion doesn't get me out of that either: on promotion, you get a 5% pay rise, no better than a "developing" rating at your next appraisal which means an even smaller bonus, and no pay rise, since you just got one. You're actually better off not getting a promotion. It has ever been thus.

I'm ambivalent about the quality of the projects and challenges that we get. The section I'm in is basically about producing posters. We don't develop real products and services - we don't have the budget to make software changes, and even if we did, we don't have the priority. No-one ever got fired for telling our product to go take a running jump. Morale is low, and what's worse is the senior management have no idea why. Start with why The Bank can't be bothered to pay the FM company enough to clean the toilets properly. It's actually worse at other banks and insurance companies. 

I used to think my medium-term need was to save as much money as possible for my retirement. Pensions are a joke, so at this stage, I'm talking cash. My short-term need is to make my life as bearable as possible to make enough money to save. At my age, there is no long-term.

Yet I'm pretty sure I'll be working until the day I die - which I hope won't be much past sixty-five. Insh'allah. In which case, why do I need to save? Because I don't think I'll be able to earn a decent living after sixty-five. Except everything I know about knowledge workers and working says that as long as I keep up, I will be able to. The competition just isn't that good - not in this country. As long as no-one has a prejudice about hiring sixty-eight year old contractors - which they won't. Not in 2022.

If all that is true, then the one thing I need to be working on is my technical skills. There's precious little opportunity to do that at The Bank, except for SAS - which I don't like and doesn't have a free version to learn on. To be honest, four months of hard slog would put me up in the top five per cent, and that gets me to Christmas. Even if I went flat-out on a job hunt, I wouldn't get anything by then (it's mid-July now). 

The next thing I need to be working on is getting some kind of client base, or a relationship with the recruiters and agencies. While SAS is sellable, it's a production tool for big companies or a handful of specialised data agencies, which means a Bank-like environment again. That's what I'd like to avoid. The question is where? 

Where do I want to work? It's probably going to be small(er). It's going to be in the West End for preference, but within the Circle Line will do. It's going to have an interesting product that I would actually use. It's going to use some interesting tech. It's going to need what I can bring, which is no-nonsense insight and decent analysis->synthesis->presentation skills. These will make them money and help them design better products, and market those more effectively. I am really good at making money by processing and interpreting data better than other people at other companies - but I have no interest in trying to get the attention of an indifferent bureaucracy. So if you're a big company floating on heritage cash flows, depending on brutal sales techniques to shovel in the new business (and that's a lot of big companies), then we should pass on each other.

The next question is: who's hiring that fits that bill, how do I find them and how do I get there? Goody. My three least favourite questions.

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