AWWA Articles

Career Zone -- “Look Ma, I’m Really Learning”

By Stuart Karasik, Ph.D.

Career ZoneIn the practice of teaching adults, a key strategy is to divide large subjects into smaller sections based on the knowledge level of your audience. Effective educators test after each section to ensure their students have absorbed the information before moving on to the next section.

As a previous educator (ok, once an educator, always an educator) I’ve decided to apply this strategy to my Career Zone column. Each of my articles has been structured to provide information on one smaller topic in the broader area of workforce, including helpful insight on specific strategies. Now it’s time to see if this information has come through loud and clear before I move on to new topics.

My test is really a self-challenge. Take a few moments to assess and identify what you’ve learned by going through this checklist of topics I’ve covered over the past months. At the end, tally your score by giving yourself 10 points for every correct answer. Partial credit is allowed.   

•    Goals and objectives: It’s generally accepted that to be successful you should set goals and objectives that are Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART). Do you have goals and objectives, and are they SMART or “pie in the sky?”
•    Documentation: Are your goals and objectives written, approved and shared with your supervisor or manager? If not, what is holding you accountable and guiding your priorities?

•    Focus: Do you remain on task by regularly referring to your goals and objectives rather than getting lost in the weeds of daily activities? Are you focused on what needs to be done and not just what you want to do?
•    Change: Are you proactive about improving processes and identifying opportunities? Remember, those who ignore or deny history tend to repeat it. Do you embrace change?

•    Reaching out: Rarely, if ever, can you meet your goals and objectives alone. Do you communicate with others, including face-to-face? Have you established a network of professionals to learn from and share with?

•    Succession plan: Helping to promote your employees is the best way to develop loyalty and increase productivity. Do you have a succession plan for your position? Have you identified and prepared your successor?

•    Rewards: You can’t reward successful performance enough. Employees work harder and remain more loyal when they are recognized for their contributions to their work group. It just takes a quick personal note or a few sincere words. What do you do to ensure your employees and co-workers are identified for high performance?

•    Mistakes: One of my mentors responds to mistakes by saying, “well, at least nobody died.” She works in employee health and safety, so she means this literally. She doesn’t yell, chide or intimidate employees, but tries to take advantage of learning opportunities. Do you use a mistake in performance as an opportunity to educate, rather than to fire someone?

•    Repeat: Take this test again in six months and note your progress. One evaluation, or one good or bad action, does not a pattern make. It takes repetition to make an action a habit. Do you perform a self-check regularly?

So, how did you do? The answer is simple. Everybody passes. We’re all as different as our work situation and environment and we all learn at our own pace. Keep at it and check back in six months to see how you’re progressing.

Stuart Karasik spent most of his career in the human resources/personnel arena. He has a PhD in education, a master’s in biology, and was the training program manager for the City of San Diego.