June/July 2012

Guest Column

Plan your career (and life) from the perspective of your 90-year-old self

By Julia Martin

Everyone has their own method of choosing the path for their professional development. In building my career in mining, I have used a simple exercise for life and career planning: every three to five years, I ask myself, “Am I happy with my current work and other aspects of my life?” Unless my answer is a resounding “YES”, I figure out my goals and plan how to move towards them.

I determine those next steps by asking myself, “When I’m 90 years old and reminiscing about my life, what are the things that I might regret NOT having done?”

What experiences do you want to have in your life?

After earning a B.Sc. in mining engineering (Queen’s University) in 1994, I worked at an underground mine in eastern Canada. I obtained several years of invaluable underground experience and started thinking about the aforementioned big questions.

International travel had always been a priority for me, but that hadn’t been reflected in my experiences up to that point. Once I focused on that goal, I became aware of opportunities. When the time was right, I moved to Australia.

I had two main objectives for my trip Down Under: to learn to work in a (slightly) different culture, and to gain open pit experience. The name of the company, the location of the mine and the commodity being mined were not as important to me at the time. With these considerations in mind, I chose an opportunity that would give me the experience I wanted.

After spending a number of years in Australia, I went traveling again. That time, I ended up at a mine in Senegal, where I learned to succeed in a workplace with a variety of languages and cultures.

Along the way, I learned about AMC Consultants, the consulting firm I work at now, and decided that the opportunities available through this firm would support the next step in my career development. In my current role, I am exposed to projects all over the world, which appeals to my desire for international travel, and the firm’s culture, which promotes a healthy work/ life balance, suits my current priorities.

Know your options

Opportunities for future career development are increased by diversity in both professional and personal experience: having practical exposure to learn a wide variety of approaches is invaluable. There is no substitute for good operational experience as a basis for most mining-related career choices. It is important to understand your long-term goals and to make sure you don’t inadvertently prevent yourself from achieving them. For instance, if your objective is to become a general manager of a mining operation, you are unlikely to get there from a pure consulting background. Instead, you will have to devote some time gathering hands-on, operational experience.

It is also important to seek advice from people with different experiences. If you are working on a mine site, for example, talk to external consultants and equipment sales representatives to get a broad range of perspectives.

Change can be scary – and that’s normal

For some people, even asking for career advice can be intimidating. Just remember that most people will appreciate your position and are likely willing to help.

It can also be hard to leave behind everything that is familiar – friends, family and your present work – to do something new. You just need to decide what is important to you and manage the balance between your professional life and your personal requirements.

There is no right or wrong way to build a career, and each person’s road to happiness is different. But it is up to you to make the effort to build the kind of professional life you will want to remember.

Julia Martin, B.Sc., MBA, is general manager, Toronto / principal mining engineer, based in the Toronto office of AMC Consultants.
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