Ideal Career Framework (ICF) A conversation with Peter Nguyen, creator of the ICF [email_address]
Media interviewer: Can you tell us a bit about your background? Sure. I was born in 1969. The year Man first put his foot on the Moon, I put mine on Earth! On a bleaker note, 1969 was also the year that Che Guevarra published Guerilla Warfare. Strangely enough, I've always had the feeling that we're doing many things wrong on this planet...
Such as? Well, you look at the world we live in, and it's almost impossible to feel optimistic about the future. There's violence at individual and national levels, there's corruption, there's drugs and arms-dealing, there's famine, etc.
So are you basically pessimistic about the future of mankind? No, I'm not. I like how one author described JFK: “an idealist without illusions.” I strive to be an idealist while ALSO clearly and bluntly facing the facts about the world we live in.
Let's get back to the Ideal Career Framework... What is it exactly? It's basically an integral framework that describes the four fundamental dimensions of an ideal career. For the first time in history, people now have a tool that allows them to clearly SEE what their current career is like, and also to VISUALIZE, with the mind's eye, what their ideal career can be.
But how is the ICF different from other career management approaches advocated by Barbara Moses, Richard Bolles, etc. ICF is different because, as mentioned before, it's “integral”: it transcends all the other approaches and integrates them into ONE coherent framework. Think of all the other specialized career approaches as software applications, and think of ICF as the “operating system” on which those apps are running.
So concretely, what does the Ideal Career Framework consist of? Basically, ICF has four dimensions, and these are the four dimensions found in EVERY human being on this planet, regardless of country of birth, religion, education, social class, race, etc.: Passion, Talent, Service and Purpose (or Meaning).
Can you describe each dimension? Passion is your emotional dimension. It's how you feel. It's the joy experienced as your accomplish your work. Talent is what you're good at. Service is what you do to serve a specific need experienced by specific people. And finally, purpose or meaning is the sense that you are doing something important, that you're contributing to a cause bigger than yourself.
So where does a person start, if he or she wants to build an “ideal career”? You start with the truth, and I don't just mean the objective truth that other people can verify or observe when they look at you. I mean also the subjective truth: being able to connect to your feelings and acknowledging those feelings and giving them space and outlets for expression.
You mean a person has to know what she likes or doesn't like, and be able to express it? That's correct. Marcus Buckingham is an author I respect, he says that the first step to a great career is to “stop doing what you don't like to do.” He's basically talking about emotional honesty.
How did you apply this concept of “emotional honesty” in your own career or life? In May 2000, after my 31 st birthday, I began to seriously think about what I wanted, really wanted, in life. And in that period of serious contemplation, I realized I was in a job that did not reflect who I was nor what I wanted ultimately out of life.
So what did you do? I thought long and hard, and came up with the decision to quit my job and search for my “ideal career,” although at the time, I was absolutely clueless as to HOW a person could define, let alone pursue, his ideal career.
What did you do after? Well, I asked my boss for a meeting, and bluntly shared with her my feelings. I have to stress here that she was the best boss I've ever had, and the company was the best company I ever worked for. So I was not surprised when, in response to my expressing my true feelings, she said: “We really want to keep you. Why don't you describe for me your ideal job? I can help to create it for you.”
Wow, that's amazing... I know! I was really moved by her compassion and her understanding and willingness to help. I had a good relationship with her. Sadly, the only response I could come up with was: “I don't know!” I really didn't know what my ideal job looked like! So there I was, in the perfect company, with the best boss ever, and I couldn't move forward in my career! I completely lacked self-knowledge. I lacked a sense of direction in my life.
That must have been a painful realization... Absolutely! For the first time in my life, I felt lost! I felt a bit depressed. I had to confront the void inside of me. By the way, this is not the same void that one feels after a romantic breakup, but it's a bit similar. I felt betrayed by Life. I felt angry. How is it possible, I thought, that I'm highly educated, well read, and highly skilled, yet NOT KNOW what I was trying to do in life?
So what did you do? Well, that Friday (June 20, 2000) was my last day at work, and my boss was kind to give me the afternoon off. So I hugged everybody and walked out the door. While I was walking on St-Catherine in downtown Montreal, I noticed the perfectly blue sky and the sun shining bright. Slowly but surely, a dark voice rose inside of me, asking: “What the hell did you just do?!” I blurted out a spontaneous answer: “I... I think I just killed my career!”
Little did I know that I was, in fact, embarking upon the greatest adventure of my life! An adventure where I met so many interesting people while getting in touch with the vast, mysterious inner world inside of me! In this amazing process of self-discovery, I became acquainted with so many powers I had which were dormant all this time, waiting to be awakened!
To read the rest of the interview, please send a blank email to Peter at [email_address] with “ICF interview” in the subject heading. Thank you.