Thursday, April 26, 2012

Visioning Your Work

THIS WEEK, THREE COLLEAGUES AND I HAD THE CHANCE TO PRESENT a session at the NYS Museums in Conversation Conference about how we are working together to shape the next steps in our careers.  We began by explaining how the four of us came together: we and one other were actually brought together by one person because 1) she knew that all of us are at career crossroads of one sort or another; 2) when she asked, none of us admitted to having a personal/career strategic plan (yet we're all rabid proponents of organizational planning!); and 3) we all knew one another to varying degrees and she thought we'd make a good group.  We've dubbed our group The Gang of Five.  

Since last summer, each member of "The Gang" has reflected on his/her career path and shared those thoughts with the others.  We spent time doing SWOTs on each other (very productive) and we've questioned each others' motives and decisions, offered advice and solutions, commiserated and supported each other.  Every one of us has had some sort of shift or refocus in thinking about our work because of our participation in The Gang.

Knowing that being able to change our perspectives on our work, even if ever so slightly, can open new ways of thinking about what we want to do or how we want to do it, we asked our audience to think about their visions for their work by creating collages of random images we had assembled.  What came next was astonishing for some.

One participant had clearly delineated work from his personal life in his arrangement of the images he chose.  He told us his family was just as important as his work, but these two elements of his life didn't intersect at all in his collage.

Another person exclaimed as she showed her collage, "I guess I'm an art educator!"  (She confided to me later that she had recently left her management job, because it lacked the creativity she had so beautifully captured in her collage.)

Many participants chose tranquil images of nature -- the antithesis of the often chaotic, short-handed work environments of today's cultural institutions.  Pictures of sharks and tigers made it into the collages of a couple of arts administrators signifying the realities of their work environments.

While not for everyone -- and clearly there were a number of people in our session for whom this exercise did not resonate -- being able to uncover a hidden desire for one's career (if even only to take a peek) -- can start a process of rethinking the relationship of work to the rest of one's life.


BJ Larson said...

Nice blog Anne! I wish I had access to a gang of five of my own...

BJ Larson

Anne W. Ackerson said...

Hey, BJ --

Even if it's a gang of two or three (not family or nonwork friends) that's enough!! Go for it!!


Greg Stevens said...
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Greg Stevens said...

Love this project of course! Thanks for sharing the results of your workshop. Since I consider myself an unofficial "adjunct" (en absentia?)member of your "Gang" I used a version of this at our recent Museum Career Lab at the Kemper Museum in KC, based on the chapter you wrote for the new AAM book that Wendy Luke and I co-edited. And I'm thrilled to gang up with Linda Norris for a riff on this concept at our "Strategizing Me" session at AAM on Wednesday morning, May 2. See what you started???

Anne W. Ackerson said...


I can't wait to hear how the session goes with Linda!!

After AAM is over, we need to put our heads together to see where we can take "Strategizing Me" next.

Wish I was there.