CAREER TRANSITION #1

Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel

The End

A good place to begin.

Since many years I’m fascinated with the topic of career and living a fulfilled “good” professional life to the extent that I did a qualitative research project on the topic next to my day job which also always included aspects of career counselling.

Two years ago, I decided to engage in a radical career shift, as I felt my vocation at the time didn’t represent me any longer in a fitting way. Over 15 years of expertise around Human Resources and organisational psychology came to an end but also something new started. As they say, when it’s time to go, it’s not enough just to know it…

I sincerely hope, through the experiences of my own story, you will be better equipped to live your own.

Tell a story. Only then will you understand what happened. (Oliver Fink)

The Story

How do we learn and change telling stories?

Since almost two years, I have the privilege to live and work in the Holy Land in a research project to better understand the intractable conflict between Israelis & Palestinians. The innovative collaboration between universities and different faculties has been initially funded by an equally innovative organization – the WeContribute Foundation.

When I started into the new direction, none of this was guaranteed to work out and most of the time, the project is still an uphill struggle. I’m in a new context, a new job, a new sector, a new country applying new skills, techniques, theories to a sensitive and complex setting. Almost none of the proven work techniques that I successfully used in my former jobs make sense any longer, most are completely irrelevant.

Of the several career changes I had, this is probably the most complete and abrupt one (besides a Humanitarian assignment in the war zone of Eastern Congo, but then I was young and had no clue anyway) – from a highly regulated big corporate and academic management function in Human Resources to completely independent PhD student & producer of ideas with little accountability and even less structure in the intractable conflict of the Holy Land. Turning point if there ever was one.

Luckily, I desired the change. It plays – at least to some extent – to my strengths and I love the context. I love discussing with researchers, peace activists, businessmen, former political prisoners. My morning routine normally starts with a short drive through the Green Line and three Israeli Checkpoints bringing our kids to their school in Palestine.

Still, even with all my desire for change, knowledge and experience of learning new things, it is what we used to call in HR a “stretch assignment” – and it’s still ongoing.

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