Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Don't stand still

Spring is here (in the Northern Hemisphere, at any rate – you guys in the South have had your turn for a few months…) and The New Forest, where I live, is changing almost daily. The days are noticeably warmer now, a welcome change from winter. The most noticeable change in the Forest this month is the increased level of birdsong. 

Finches sit on top of the gorse bushes, Great Tits in the upper branches of the bare-limbed trees, Robins perch on top of the hedges, Thrushes in the distance. All singing at the tops of their voices and for a worthwhile cause – it is the start of the mating season, the annual ritual when birds look for a partner.  In the background, somewhere deep in the forest, the ‘rat a tat, tat’ of woodpeckers boring holes in trees also signals that the nesting season is beginning. To round it off, I heard the first cuckoo of Spring this morning, the annual sign the ‘Spring is here’.

The birds sing for two reasons. Firstly, the males sing to attract a mate. This is why they choose a prominent position, where they can be seen and their voices carry. ‘Look at me’, they sing, ‘Choose me. I’m big and strong and just the father for your chicks’. Males also sing to mark out their territories and to defend them against rivals.  Each species has its own recognised song and the effect of the medley of different tunes, repeated over and over again, is magical. It’s part of Spring, like the daffodils, the clocks going forward and the sound of lawnmowers being used for the first time since last Autumn.

This is the start of a process which is repeated every year. It’s similar to many annual tasks and projects that we find ourselves carrying out in our working lives. The birds, though, will start afresh with a new plan. Many species find a new mate every year; most build new nests and many build these nests in new territories. They don’t expect to come out of the winter and pick up ‘business as usual’. They have to sing (advertise) for a new mate, find a suitable nesting site and start the process of bringing up their new family.

In our working lives, how much time to do we invest in planning for annual projects, the ones that we did last year and will do again next year and the year after? Very often, we expect everything to carry on much as usual. We’ve done it before and it worked, so we’ll do it again the same way. This is especially true for people in midlife who have been in the same role for a number of years or who run their own business.

Whilst this approach is fine, do remember the birds singing in the trees. They are thinking about how they will do it this season, who they’ll do it with and where they’ll do it. Do take some time to review what happened during your main projects last year and make any necessary changes this time around. What worked, what didn’t? How has the environment around you changed? Were the right people involved at the right time last year, or did you have some last minute panics? Was everything in the right place at the right time? What has changed since last year?

Time spent up front planning your work is always time well spent, as the birds singing to attract this year’s mate will testify!

Rob Horlock has established The Mid Life Opportunity (, a community for people in Midlife. Advice and Guidance is available from The Mid Life Coaching Panel. It’s free to join - click here

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