A Circular Perspective

Do you ever feel that you are trying to do it all and worry that maybe you can't keep up? Well, take a breath and relax. You can really only do one thing at a time — and it's actually better that way.

The ability to focus on the right task at the right time is more important that trying to multi-task your way to productivity. That doesn't mean that you won't have several projects at different levels of completion going on simultaneously. It simply means that if you are working on Project A, focus solely on A. Then on Project B. Then on Project C and back to A. And so on.

This is particularly important when looking at your career progression. We all know people who seem to be able to do it all at once. They are excellent in their field, great team builders, and they also seem to be volunteering and giving back to the community in a symphony of personal and professional efficiency. While all this activity is impressive, rest assured that level of excellence did not happen simultaneously — or by accident. It is the result of a process and a plan that you can implement yourself.

The process is called "I, We, You." It is something I learned from Dr. Elaine Seat, P.E., director of the Aerospace MBA Program at the University of Tennessee. In a presentation I heard Dr. Seat deliver at the "Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul" conference last year, she spoke of a normal progression in one's career, a kind of circular perspective that helps assure long-term success and connectivity within one's chosen career path.

The first level of consciousness is very much self-centered. How smart can I become? How much money can I make? How fast can I progress? Does my family have what it needs to grow happily and in good health? Participation in industry forums and networking meetings is more about being a productive member of a team, rather than trying to lead the team. That's important because great teams require great team members.

After establishing one's credentials and achieving the respect that comes from having worked successfully in the trenches, a maturing professional can start to become focused on what "We" can accomplish together as a team. The progression to team leadership does not happen to poor team players nor to those who are unprepared. One's personal plan for leadership begins with a single-minded focus on developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities that will prepare her or him for the opportunity to lead.

With leadership comes a reduced focus on the individual leader. The team leader is measured only by his or her ability to bring out the best in their team members, not on their individual accomplishments. It is all about "Us," and about how much "We" can accomplish together.

With professional growth also comes personal growth and stability. To give back to an industry that gave so willingly to us is the completion of the professional circle of success. How can I help "You" succeed? The art of mentoring young and prospective employees embarking on their own professional careers is possible only after the mentor's successful navigation of the "I" and "We" stages of her or his own career.

In listening to Dr. Seat, I was left with the sense that this kind of connectivity is exactly what the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) was established to create. We are an educational forum dedicated to lifelong learning, a base from which professionals can share ideas, and a platform from which to give back to young people just embarking on their own careers in aviation maintenance. I hope her central point of career progression is captured: Have a plan and set goals — and let the natural progression of your career evolve naturally and productively.

Stay Strong!