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MENTOR - CAREER CLINIC

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Question...
Question

I am a head of service and am moving from the education department to the leisure department. I am very interested in the arts and it's a move I have wanted to make for a while. However, I'm worried about my lack of overall knowledge in this area. I've worked in education for 15 years in various roles and I'm quite scared about stepping out of my comfort zone. Do you have any tips on how I can make the transition less daunting?

Aswer

Good for you - you've wanted this and made it happen. Some apprehension is normal - it would be more worrying if you felt sunnily complacent. But let's put your worries into perspective. You were chosen for this role. While I don't know anything about you or your council, I can tell you now that you were chosen for your leadership skills and personal qualities, not for your knowledge of leisure services.

As you progress up the managerial ladder, the knowledge involved in any job becomes less and less significant and the transferable skills more and more vital. Knowledge is quickly acquired, while it can take a lifetime to develop skills - and personal qualities are largely set by the end of childhood.

What is important is to demonstrate you are a quick learner. Spend your first few weeks listening and observing. Tell your team this is what you are doing. Arrange to observe their work on the ground. Ask what they see as the biggest challenges, now and on the horizon. Hold an early team meeting to report on what you have seen. Ask if this is the picture as they see it and listen to their responses. You don't need to be an instant expert in your new field because you will have plenty of those reporting to you. It is important to identify the bigger picture.

To make sure you do this, connect confidently with your boss and other executive directors, read specialist journals and go to conferences where figures in your field are speaking. And if you don't yet know what these are, make it part of this research to find out. Essentially, my advice is to spend your first three months with the emphasis on learning what the job is rather than plunging straight in to doing it.

Jenny Rogers

Management coach and director, Management Futures

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