Most people know how it feels to be stuck in an unproductive job hunt clicking refresh on their email every minute hoping for a reply to one of the dozens of job applications they have fired off into the ether. The plight of the employed is often not much better. People are at their desks in cubicles doing work that doesn’t fulfill them for supervisors they don’t find inspiring. All the while they feel trapped because they don’t know how to pursue better careers. Our project is for all those people who want to create that career - one that is fulfilling and meaningful - and wish they had a process to move forward that is structured, well-organized and effective. A little over two years ago, the coincidence of seating assignments at a conflict management firm in Cambridge, MA created the conditions for the design of a model that does just that.
My co-author Carly and I didn’t know each other before we worked in adjacent cubicles at the Consensus Building Institute (CBI). We became friends and, as friends do, over lunch and on break talked about life. We mainly focused on how to investigate and advance our careers. I had just entered the field of alternative dispute resolution and was working as a mediator and freelance writer/researcher, while around the edges I was doing any work I could find as a negotiation trainer. Carly was working full time at CBI doing administrative work and trying to figure out in what direction she wanted to go with her profession. As we compared notes, we noticed that the strategies each of us was using to advance our careers had a lot of overlap. Both of us were asking for guidance from experienced professionals through dozens of informational interviews, while practicing the negotiation skills we were learning in our work. What we found most striking in our comparison was how different our personality types and backgrounds were and yet the same strategies were working for each of us. I had often thought that luck and personality were the main drivers of my ability to advance faster than most in the dispute resolution field. As Carly and I talked, I realized that both of us were making swift progress not only because of luck and our dispositions, but also because we had learned how to harness the keys to being successful negotiators and transformed them into a methodology for career development. Tad joined the project as we sought out people with broader professional experience to test if our model would work for those in their mid-career. He corroborated our experience and was able to expand on our model by bringing his perspective from several career jumps from advertising, marketing and airline pricing to sculpture and mediation. The model we developed was distilled from a combination of the people we interviewed and research on negotiation theory. It is made up of three types of negotiation utilized continuously throughout four phases of career development, as summarized below.
Our main motivation for writing the book is to share with a broader audience the insight that we were lucky enough to gain from our, now, hundreds of interviews with successful professionals and lessons from well-established negotiation theory. Today all three of us frequently get asked to do informational interviews with college/masters degree graduates or mid-career professionals looking to change course. In these conversations people have had overwhelmingly positive responses to the advice that we have given based on our model. It seemed like the best way to grant access to this information to a wider audience was to put our ideas on paper.