"The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them."– George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
Meet Jeff, a talented professional with his organization for several years. Although Jeff's good at his job, he's never given much thought to what he'd like to achieve with his career.
And, because he hasn't taken the time to define his dreams or develop a strategy to realize them, he frequently misses critical opportunities. He would have been promoted several times if he'd taken advantage of these.
Jeff's still in the same role he was initially hired for. He's moderately happy on the surface, but he knows that, deep down, he could be achieving much more.
Does this sound like a career you'd like to have?
Chances are, you want to work in a fun, challenging, and fulfilling, and that also pushes you to achieve your full potential. The good news is that there may be plenty of opportunities available to you in your current role. All you need to do is identify them, and create a strategy to get to where you want to go.
In this article, we'll outline a common-sense approach that you can use to think about how to reach your full potential in your career.
Taking Control of Your Career
Some people think that their career development is out of their hands. After all, you can't get a job, promotion, or project without someone else giving it to you, right?
Well, on one level, that's true. However, what you do and how far you go in life is, in reality, up to one person: you. Great careers don't just happen – if you want a job that excites and challenges you, you need to plan for it.
These steps will help you do this:
Step 1: Review Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Motivators, and Values
Developing a career strategy is like constructing a building. You have to start with a solid foundation and, bit by bit, work your way towards the top.
Before you do anything else, you need to analyze your strengths and weaknesses and understand your values and what motivates you.
So, start by looking at your strengths and weaknesses. What do you excel at in the role you're in now? And what skills have allowed you to shine in previous roles? Conversely, what are your weakest skills or the tasks you find most challenging?
Remember, strengths and weaknesses aren't always obvious. For instance, you might be great at creating harmony in a group; you might be very good at winning others over to your side, or you have a talent for inspiring people to go along with a new initiative. These are all strengths!
It can be helpful to do a Personal SWOT Analysis during this first step.
Next, analyze what motivates you in your career:
What tasks, projects, or roles get you excited right now?
What type of role would you be encouraged to work towards in the future?
What interests you about your current position, colleagues, and organization?
Which responsibilities would you enjoy that you don't already have?
This is also an excellent time to analyze what makes you happy in life – tools such as the PERMA Model and Ben-Shahar's Happiness Model will be helpful here.
Last, identify your values. This is important because you can use these as a map to guide your decisions. Your career strategy should be directed by your values just as much as by your dreams. Focus on identifying your top five values.
Step 2: Know Your Comparative Advantage
Once you have a good idea of your strengths and motivators, you need to identify your comparative advantage. You can do this uniquely well, compared with the people around you; a strength, skill set, or quality unique to you that will add value to your organization.
It's essential to know your comparative advantage because using this trait or skill will help you succeed in your career. Remember, your comparative advantage isn't always what you do best; it's something you're better at than anyone else, filling a niche in your company.
If you're struggling to discover your comparative advantage, think back to the last few performance reviews you've had. Has your boss consistently praised or commended you for particular skills, traits, or successes? If so, this might offer some clues as to your comparative advantage.
You can also look back at the strengths you identified in step 1 and ask colleagues, clients, or even friends for their input.
Step 3: Research Possibilities and Make the Most of Opportunities
Whether you can see them right away, there may be many opportunities for growth and advancement in your organization and your current industry. But it's up to you to identify and make the most of these opportunities.
Start with a Personal PEST Analysis. This helps you analyze the political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological trends that might affect your career as you move forward. Using this, you can identify likely areas of growth and opportunity and places to avoid.
You can also revisit the Personal SWOT Analysis that you did in step 1 – what opportunities might be available to you that comes from your strengths?
Make sure that you stay up-to-date with what your organization can offer you, and be sure to take advantage of any training or development courses. For example, does your company provide tuition reimbursement for relevant studies? Or are there any upcoming trade shows or conferences that you would benefit from attending?
The people around you can also help you identify opportunities. For instance, an experienced mentor can help you enormously in your career, especially when they are someone that you trust and respect.
Step 4: Develop Expertise
It would be best if you were starting to create an image in your mind that revolves around what you're good at, what you're interested in, what motivates you, and the available opportunities.
Now you need to develop the necessary expertise for the next step forward. To build expertise, identify the knowledge, skills, certifications, or degrees you'll need to reach the role you'd most like. (This is closely tied in with the previous step since there may be many opportunities to develop expertise within your organization or industry.)
Career Tip: Don't rely on luck or people "taking a chance on you." Ensure that you have the training and qualifications needed to take advantage of your opportunities.
Step 5: Network
Professional networking is an essential aspect of creating a career strategy. After all, people can only help you if they know about you, so you need to get to know the people who can help you achieve your goals.
Remember, you can network with colleagues in different departments and suppliers and professionals in other organizations or industries. You can also network using tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
So, plan the networking needed to do to take advantage of your opportunities, and keep in mind that networking works both ways: you'll get the most significant benefit if you try to help others.
Step 6: Analyze Current Options
Once you have thought about the "big picture," have started building expertise, and have planned your networking, it's time to look at the short term, tactical options available to you right now:
Is there an upcoming project that would allow you to showcase your comparative advantage to shine in front of people who matter?
Is someone in your department vacating their position or taking a leave of absence? If so, could you volunteer to take their place?
Is there a challenging task that you could do to use your skills in a new way?
Is there any way that you could craft your job to get the experience you want?
See if you can develop a list of options that will start you moving in the right direction.
Step 7: Pull It All Together
By this stage, you should be able to answer the following questions:
What are my biggest strengths?
What are my most significant weaknesses?
What motivates me at work? What do I do that makes me truly happy?
What are my top five values?
What's my comparative advantage? What makes me unique in my organization?
What knowledge, skills, or qualifications do I need to acquire to move forward and excel?
Which of my colleagues/bosses/suppliers is in a position to help me advance?
What options are available to me right now that could allow me to use my skills in a new way or stand out from the crowd?
Take some time to analyze what this information says about you and what you want from your career. Then use this information to take the next step, and move forward.
Step 8: Move Forward
Now that you've identified what you want out of your career and have answered some critical questions about what's important to you, it's time to start setting personal career goals to help you move forward.
It's essential to set both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are goals you can accomplish within the next few weeks or months. Long-term goals should be achievable in the next few years.
CDPS Key Points Developing an effective career strategy is vital in fulfilling your professional potential and getting your dream job. You can break the process down into the following steps:
Review strengths, weaknesses, motivators, and values.
Know your comparative advantage.
Research possibilities and make the most of opportunities.
Analyze current options.
Pull it all together.
Use these, and watch your career take off!