Is it taboo to talk about our careers?

We started the week off by talking about why business analysts get stuck. What I learned from you was that this tends to be a taboo topic. I was surprised at first, but after further reflection it’s starting to make sense. In my private conversations with business analysts, I hear about this all the time. I guess I don’t see many people uploading videos and sharing their stories. 🙂

Do you find it taboo to talk about your career? And if so, why?

On some levels, I get this. We don’t always have a sense of security around talking with the people we work with about our careers. We might not know if they have our best interest at heart or we might in fact know that they do not. Even if we trust them, we might fear looking stupid, uninformed, or feel we’re wasting their time. There have definitely been situations where I have not talked to my manager about my stuckness.  In fact, looking back, it was more likely that I did not talk to my manager, but instead confided in my friends, family, and a few trusted colleagues for help and direction.

Sometimes I also tried to go it alone. I turned to books and online resources for information about the situation and took the initiative to apply what I was learning to my current situation. Some of these ideas worked wonders, others fell flat.

I imagine that many of you are also like me. Maybe this is why webinars are so popular for business analysts right now. We get to learn in relative anonymity from a real person who often is sympathetic with our situation.

As business analysts we tend to like to prepare. We analyze. We think. We over-analyze and over-think. And so maybe we get ourselves stuck because we feel we need to come up with the answer on our own when the easiest way to come up with the answer might just be to ask. We do this with our stakeholders too, don’t we. Sometimes forgetting to ask the elicitation questions and instead make a few unstated assumptions and jump into analysis? We don’t like to admit this happens, but our tendency to be prepared and want to have all the answers makes this one of those “gotcha” mistakes that surfaces now and then.

I can sympathize. When it comes to your careers, you may indeed think you need to do it all yourself. There may be some real risks in asking for help. Or, there may be some perceived risks that, if you explore them, are not really that bad.

I’m not going to tell you to change this way of doing things. That would be a double-standard because I know that I’m not doing that on a regular basis. But I am looking for a bit of validation that I am understanding the issue from your perspective. Do you find it’s taboo to talk about your career? And, if so, have you uncovered ways to successfully work around this issue?

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Comments

  1. Great thoughts Doug. I think it’s a great point to raise that sometimes career aspirations (or frustrations) we share in presumed confidence are not completely so. Truly trusted colleagues or those distant enough from your current situation to present little risk are relatively rare. But through sharing in confidence, I agree, we get validation, support, and input. There’s definitely a balance to be struck.

    One thing I heard from a recent potential mentee was that friends and family were providing a lot of personal support as she explore a career change, but they didn’t understand business analysis. So it was tough to get professional support from those who were not peers. I must say I feel in the same boat and it’s been great having this community to rely on for input and advice.

    Laura

  2. While every situation in the workplace is different, I’ve tried to use the rule that if I say something to another person about my career and that particular comment got back to my employer, I would not have the least hesitation repeating it face to face. There are some exceptions in which I will share more in depth realizations or lessons with people that I trust the most; but when speaking to those I know only causally, I follow this rule….or try to.

    I thought about this rule when I heard someone advise me about gambling…uh…I mean investing… in the stock market. I was told to only invest what I could live with losing forever, and I found that to be pretty good and multi-faceted advice.

    That being said, I DO think that we should talk about our careers with our peers, mentors, friends, dogs, and the like. Only by exposing our concerns (good or bad) can we find validation that we are dealing with them appropriately or uncover new paths to success. As adults, our careers are also many times a large part of defining at least a piece of who we are (remember not to let your career BE who you are…;o)….), so our happiness in them is important.

    My two cents.

  3. Thanks for the input Felicia. I do think that talking to friends is a great way to obtain perspective on your career goals without endangering your credibility or employment situation.

    Laura

  4. Laura,

    I have taken the same route when it comes to choosing the people I speak to about my career. My friends know the most about my career plans. I think back to my last job, and I definitely chose with care who I revealed my plans and concerns to. Trust is such a huge factor.

    There also may be a fear factor (sorry for the cheesy TV title pun) involved. Fear of losing one’s employment position or credibility if comments are spilled over into the rumor mill.

    I have not yet uncovered a successful work around. I”m not quite sure how to lift that taboo. I think speaking to the BA community, as you are doing here, is a great way to start. 🙂

    ~ Felicia

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