Geoscience Career: health checker

August 2018


This time last year, a guide was published to help geoscientists in industry manage their own career development. The SpatialCV™ was launched a few months later to follow through as a non-profit online initiative. This month, while everyone is presumably away enjoying a welcome break from work or perhaps looking for work, it might be a good time for us to sit back and reflect on whether our careers are taking us where we want them to be. A quicklook health-checker has now been developed to help visualise how our careers are shaping up and is open to all geoscientists from every sector of industry or anyone seeking to obtain a job in industry.


Career visualisation

The health of your career is based upon your definition of what success looks like to you. Career paths in meritocratic organisations are most commonly split between technical and managerial streams. The health checker asks a series of questions about your aspirations that separate managerial and technical content, together with important metrics associated with personal drive or motivation, and reality or achievablility for the future. The chart below shows how these dimensions can be visualised on a single plot.

Health checker plot.jpeg

The image presents the career health and aspirations of individuals whose careers are well under way or have not even started yet. The plot is intended for geoscientists from any sector of industry to visualise 5 dimensions: demographics (level of experience), sense of optimism for the future, career directions (managerial and technical), sense of reality (achievability of career choices) and motivation or drive. There are other dimensions built in to the survey such as the importance of teams, discipline, creativity, money, environment, stability, loyalty, travel etc... But for this plot, the compass rose top right charts how managerial aspirations plot in the NW, technical in the SE with motivation increasing towards the NE. Bubble sizes depict the achievability of those aspirations, with the colour of the bubble representing the level of experience at the time of enquiry and the colour of the bubble rim denoting how individuals actually feel about their careers. To illustrate how to read the plot, the bubble labelled "ANONYMOUS" belongs to a mining geologist, who is exceptionally highly motivated, with a career that is mostly technical and achievable and is clearly continuing to be motivational for that individual. This represents someone in control of their future and loving it!

Career path plot.jpeg

To give you some idea how the 5 metrics visualised vary with time, the bubbles shown above reveal a slightly demented career path, which represents the author's own career choices at various decision points over his 35 year career. He left university strongly technical but not particularly interested in a career in industry. He got a job very quickly and achieved lower management early in his career, which he did not enjoy, so he returned to his technical base with low degrees of achievability in his aims but where he eventually found satisfaction in technical leadership. This career path is clearly opportunistic, lacking clear vision and making decisions on the fly. It would be hoped that others might envisage more focused career paths depending on the strength of their ambition. What is clear, however, is that individuals will almost always change their view along the way, as they discover things about their chosen career that they didn't expect (because industry itself changes) and as they uncover new depths in their own capabilities.

Reciprocal Invitation

The author has been invited to have a conversation with "Young Professionals" at the PETEX conference in November 2018. The conversation will be an interactive plenary session, where participants will be encouraged to use their smart devices to submit a similar survey to the one presented here. The results of the survey will simultaneously show up on the screen using a similar dimensional visualisation to the one described above and will form the basis for a live discussion. The conversation will be much more meaningful for the young hopefuls if the metrics are properly calibrated by people who have already experienced what they are hoping to experience in their careers. You are respectfully invited to click HERE to spend 2-3 minutes responding to a survey, which will plot your bubble in the same dimensional space. The last entry in the survey (email) is a text field: leave it as "ANONYMOUS", in the knowledge that you have contributed to a calibration that may help others seeking to be, or avoid being, where you are now in your career. If, however, you would like to see where you plot on the chart amongst your peers, then please enter your email address so that your bubble can be sent to you. As an extra bonus, if you pass this invitation on to another geoscientist, a (subjective) narrative describing your future based upon your own observations will be sent to you. If you want to go further to see how your career path has developed over time, then please click the second graphic above and prepare to go back in time. The author makes no claims about the validity of the outcome... for most of us, this is just is a toy, but with the right calibration (your participation) it may form the basis for a structured conversation around the hopes and dreams of aspiring young professionals.

My thanks go to the many students and staff from Liverpool, London, Aberdeen and Leeds universities who helped me to ask the questions that matter to them and to Allan Scardina, Graeme Bagley, Lawrence Cowley and Bilal Nawaz for helping to finesse.