The day before the event, I was e-mailed an instruction sheet, describing what I should do beforehand so as to maximise the benefit I would receive from speaking to the mentors:
Think about 2 or 3 problems/issues/challenges you would like to address during the session:Now, this, as I discovered, was far easier said than done. I realised I wouldn’t necessarily want to rehash the same question with each of the four mentors, but, for me, there’s really only one burning question that keeps going through my head and that’s “what on earth is it that I want to do?”
Now develop a 2‐3 minute description of yourself that provides the context for the
- Develop a brief description of each problem/issue/challenge
- Place this problem in the context of your personal goals, priorities, and values
- Try to identify any options you are considering
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of these options
problems/issues/challenges you want mentoring about.
During each speed- mentoring session, you will want to start with the description of yourself and then move on to the description of your problem/issue/challenge.
Only ten words. But a ruddy huge issue. It’s one that I’ve been trying to answer for a while, as regular readers will well know. Many friends have given me their views (“start up your own business”, “go into consulting”, “travel”, “why don’t you go into social media given your writing, blogging and tweeting?”) but, to be honest, not too many of them have resonated with me, for one reason or another.
Part of it is because I’m reluctant to move away from a field which I’ve spent so many years training for. After all, it's the role I’ve been doing for years which I’m sick of, not the sector. I’ve said before that I’d love for an omniscient life coach – a person possessing a better-than-encyclopaedic knowledge of every single possible job in the world, if you will - to tell me what roles would suit me given my skills, qualifications, interests and personality, but, sadly, that person doesn't exist. The problem I find with life coaches is they too are bounded by their life experience, and can only exhort you to question and explore. That’s not a bad thing, but, for someone like me, whose main passion seems to be for variety and newness, it’s not a big help.
So, how to break this scarily large question down into more a size more suitable for a speed-mentoring session? Would I be able to find something that I could pose to the mentors and not waste their time? Over the course of the day, I found myself scribbling down notes and questions on what it is I liked to do, where I’d like to go, and what it is that drives me. And the more I wrote, whether they were more questions or responses to those questions, the more I felt that as if a little dark area of my mind was gradually becoming more illuminated. It was as if the mere process of questioning was helping me set signposts, pointing me where to go, even if it was only a few metres down from where I originally was.
And that’s why I wrote this post. Because I think we don’t ever ask ourselves enough questions. At least, not the right ones. We stumble over the first few questions because they’re so generic and big that we don’t even think we’ll get to what we consider a smart or useful question. But the mere act of questioning informs our questions so that we get better and better at it. And it’s only by asking the key questions – no matter how long it takes to get there – can we ever come up with the answers.
Read Penelope Trunk's post on this subject for far better advice than I could ever hope to dispense on asking better questions.
P.S. At the end of my questioning process, the last question I wrote down was this: “I really love learning, whether it’s about people or things, and that’s what drives me, ultimately, the feeling that I’m gaining more knowledge each and every day I’m alive. I also love engaging with people, and learning about their stories and backgrounds, and where it is they want to go. How do I find a job that enables me to do that? For that matter, what role would enable me to do that? Employers want to hire people because those candidates already possess the knowledge required by the employer needs in order to drive the company forward. How do I overcome that? How do I get to that stage?” I don't know if I'll be able to answer that any time soon but I certainly intend to try.