Take the career audit
In any role, you must be doing a great job in the eyes of your stakeholders: your boss, team and others who have influence over your career. And whilst this sounds very straight forward few people take the time to stop and check. That’s one reason why the annual performance review can be a shock for some. But there is another and just as important review you should be regularly carrying out and that’s whether your role is contributing to your long-term career goals and making you happy. As well as doing a good job you need to have an eye on the future. Is the job fulfilling your purpose? Are you progressing at the rate you want to and if not is now the time to do something about it? Are you enjoying your role and still learning and growing?
Your response to these questions will be influenced by your mindset. Whether you are adopting a growth mindset, you see your job as a place for growth and learning. Or a fixed mindset, you see your job as a place to show how skilled and capable you are.
And some of your answers will depend on how your company is doing and the opportunities it has, as well as how your immediate manager respects and helps you. Your answers are also probably influenced too by quality of the mentors and network you have that mean you know what opportunities exist. And you will also be looking at where you stand verse your peers in the market place, both the internal market place and the external market place.
Here are some questions to do an ‘audit’ of your career based on not just how you are doing but what is important for you given your career goals and the role it has alongside your family and other interests.
Answer each question yes or no and make notes about why you answered that way. These notes are useful when you look back. What is uppermost on your mind today may be less relevant when you review your answers in a few days’ time. We have divided the questions into three parts. Part 1 covers your overall career, the experience you have acquired verses what you desire. Part 2 asks questions about proactively managing your career. Part 3 covers your current role and whether it is contributing to your longer-term career.
Part 1 Your career today?
- In your own judgement are you at the place where you planned to be or want to be professionally at this point in your career, for example given the number of years of experience you have?
- Are you on the right career path? A path that is meaningful to you? If not do you understand why? Do you know how to get on to the right career path?
- Do you have a purpose and does your role enable you to meet that purpose?
- Are you happy and your career brings the best out in you?
- Does your career enable you to also fulfil other important goals like those connected to family and wellbeing?
Part 2 Are you proactively managing your career?
- Can you describe your long-term career direction based on your purpose, skills and commitments?
- Do you have professional and personal goals for the next 12 months (or another planning period that you prefer)? Do you regularly review your goals and achievements against them?
- Is your resume up to date? Does it clearly describe your value and the value you have added to the organisations where you have worked?
- Is your LinkedIn profile up to date?
- If you pulled out your resume right now and reviewed it, is there at least one notable accomplishment you have added in the last 6 months?
- Do you network with professional friends and contacts at least once per month?
Part 3 Is this role meeting your needs?
- Is this role and this organisation helping you achieve your career goals?
- Are you learning something new every day or every week?
- Do the people in your workplace respect you, appreciate and use your talents?
- Do you have a manager who supports your career goals and pushes you to achieve to your full potential?
- Does your manager suggest and make available projects and assignments which add to your experience and value in the organisation?
- Do you have a network which helps you stay up to date on organisational and sector trends?
- Do you have mentors who guide your career choices?
- Do you like your role?
- Do you have sufficient scope and autonomy in your role to use your unique skills and abilities?
- Are you earning what is fair for the contribution you make to the organisation?
- Does your job allow the time you need for your personal life: your health, your family and friends?
- Do you know your own strengths, and how to use them in your role and the organisation?
- Is there still scope to grow and learn in the role?
- Do you feel appreciated and are you given recognition for your unique contribution?
Getting your career on track
Many people, and women in particular approach their career in an opportunistic way. And this is understandable, for both men and women it’s hard to generate the mental space to think about let alone manage your career when you have to do the current job well and probably manage family and some time for yourself. Whilst that’s all understandable and it’s good to make the most of unexpected opportunities it can mean you don’t position yourself well which means you can miss out on key roles. This happens because the people who have the power to offer them to you don’t know you are interested or your worth. The reality is that managing your career takes dedication. Research on work tells us the factors that lead to advancement in a career require planning, communication, and profile, especially for women. For both man and women, we recommend managing your career based on the following:
- Generate Opportunities. Be on a constant lookout for chances to enhance your experience, add value and get recognition for it. By all means volunteer for projects and tasks where you can add value and gain good experience. But it’s no use adding value without recognition. Women frequently do work which smooths the wheels of the business without receiving the rewards. So don’t do the ‘office housework’ unless you have a clear understanding of how it will contribute to your advancement.
- Know your market. This includes networking, understanding how the sector is changing, what competitors (and potential future employers) are doing, who the movers and shakers are in the market. And by market we mean both the internal market in your organisation and the external sector market
- Market Yourself.Make sure you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile and a profile on any relevant professional sites. Join professional networking groups or organisations and take some time to attend meetings. There will be periods of your career when you can be more active than other times but it’s important not to get into the habit of being a passive member.
- Treat an approach for a job as an opportunity to widen your network. Whether you decide to take a job opportunity or not when you are approach or you approach the job market look upon it as a marketing exercise. The person you meet for an opportunity you don’t want this year may be just the person with the right role next. Always go to interviews and informal discussions well prepared. Anticipate the questions you might be asked, and practice your answers. Remember to take the initiative by providing concrete information that demonstrates your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Be energetic and positive, whatever the current state of your organisation or your role.
- Get the right manager. If your manager does not proactively help you manage your career by providing recognition, projects and assignments that add to your skills and profile in the company and good advice on your growth and progress you should make it a priority to sort that out. What will solve this? Insisting on a career discussion and plan? Changing your role and manager? Changing your company?
- Know how to talk about your value and potential. You need to be competent but that’s not the only basis or even the most important criteria organisations use to evaluate and promote people. Being able to talk convincingly about how you work including with others, with teams and with bosses is what matters. And research has shown being able to convincingly talk about your potential gets recruiting managers excited. The conviction needs to come from your belief in yourself. Only then will you give off honest signals.
- Describe your abilities in the language employers want. More and more, organisations are focused on good leadership, and companies look for leadership potential when seeking someone to hire or promote. Talk about and have evidence of skills in:
- Making decisions under stress,
- Setting direction for the work group (or your role),
- Taking initiative,
- Taking increased responsibility,
- Achieving goals,
- Collaborating across groups or functions, and
- Managing emotions, ethical dilemmas and ambition
- Know your data. Keep a note of the relevant numbers, clients and project outcomes at your figure tips. Make sure you have a fluent and concise way of describing your strengths, potential and purpose.
If the ‘audit’ of your career leaves you worried put together a plan, pick the area that will have the most impact and don’t try to do too much at one time. Have a happy and fulfilling 2018.
Our career management programme Brain-savvy Wo+man starts in early 2018. More details here.