Getting clear on what I want from my career

Career development

Many people flounder in their career - not because they're not talented but because they drift along and hope that the right thing turns up. In fact, in our experience most people are completely opportunistic in the way that they drive their career. They do very little, if anything, to create and shape opportunities, or to develop their career proactively.

Now, seizing opportunities as they come isn't a bad thing - it just works better if you have a clear compass that helps you know which direction you want to go in. And getting clear on what you want is quite easy. Despite popular misconceptions, it doesn't mean you need to develop a five-year career plan and strategy! In fact, you'll quickly find you can benefit purely from thinking about how you'd like to spend your time.

To get started, consider two things:

Firstly, what are the things that you're good at and would like to do more of?

If you ask most people to name the things they're best at - they struggle to describe their strengths. Because they are unclear, other people are also unclear about their strengths - and that's not helpful for career progress. If you could sum up what you're really good at in three bullet points what would those points be?

Whatever you want from your career, you should be doing a job that allows these strengths to come to the fore. Once you're clear, challenge yourself to share this with others. Both in career conversations, but also in casual conversations where you can share your enthusiasm for this type of work.

Secondly, avoid the things that hold you back.

Be honest with yourself  about the things you're less good at. What do you have to work hard to deliver? What actions do you consistently put off or find zap your energy? Start by reducing these within your current role - whatever you do, don't volunteer for this kind of work! And whatever career move you make next, you want to design this kind of work out - both by selecting jobs where it isn't important, and also when offered a role, being clear about your strengths and weaknesses and negotiating the role to play to your strengths. With every new role, repeat the process. What will you do less of, over the next 12 months?

Once you can articulate these two things, you'll find it easy to make people aware of the type of work that you want.

How easy was it to answer the two questions above? If it was quite easy - you probably have a good handle on this. If you didn't readily have an answer, consider asking for more feedback - speak to your manager, to HR and to your colleagues, and get really clear about what it is you're good at and what's holding you back.

In previous blogs we've talked about doing a red/green exercise. Spend a week summarising the activities you've done listing them out under two headings: Red tasks are those you didn't enjoy - or even hated. Green tasks are those that you really enjoyed doing and that really energised you. These lists can form the basis of the answers to the two points above and shape the direction of your career.

Take Away: What will you do more of this year? What will you do less of? What actions will help you achieve this?

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