Imagine a “You Are Here” signpost on your career roadmap. You may be gainfully employed and on a clear career path or considering new options. You might be considering a new business start-up or an established business owner.
Regardless of where you signpost currently sits along the path of your professional life, assessing where you are in terms of your performance, skills, experience, and behavior lets you capitalize on your strengths, work on your weaknesses, take advantage of new opportunities, and mitigate potential threats.
Let’s start with performance. It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it) the best method of getting the next job or client is to succeed at what you’re doing now. Your performance is a ticket to advancement, especially when you’re in a position or situation you don’t like. Figuring out what you don’t like affords you the opportunity to mitigate that issue, then focus on what you do want.
The skills and knowledge you have today, both specialized and general, may not be the skills you’ll need for your next position or opportunity. Regularly identifying what you need to learn, then taking a course, reading a book or blog, or seeking out someone who can help you is prudent in this rapidly changing world.
You also need to identify what experience you have in terms of your accomplishments and the proof you have in terms of references or documented results. Additionally think through the experience you’re going to need so you can seek out opportunities to gain that experience. If you’ve only ever worked in one industry or career field you have depth; however, your perspective might to be narrow. A position in another industry might help broaden your experience base. If you’ve only worked in one specialty, seeking an opportunity in a different area might be beneficial.
Taking stock of your behavior is essential to your current and future success. How your peers, colleagues, and clients perceive your behavior influences the quality of collaboration in your current situation and may affect the type of opportunity or reference you receive in the future. Regardless of how good you are at what you do, failure to consistently exhibit executive level behavior will eventually catch up with you.
Understanding where you are now is the first step in building a plan for how to get to where you want to go.
Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant based in Fernandina Beach, Florida and Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups. Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.