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Evaluating Your Next Career Move

Tips For Changing Your Employment Situation...Not Just the Scenery
By Donald J. Strankowski
Ascend Career and Life Strategies, LLC

Assessing your career direction all begins with the premise that you must know yourself.  The fact is we all need to continually reassess who we are and on a regular basis where we are in relation to our goals; both personal and professional.  Are you doing want you want to do or doing what you think you should do?  We should continually be asking ourselves: Am I utilizing my true strengths and natural abilities, working in the field of my choice, involved with an organization that interests me and earning the money I need?  If the answer is NO to any of these questions, you may need to reevaluate your present career situation.

In order to have a fulfilling career, we must change the situation and not just the scenery.  Jumping across the street and working for a competitor might better your career situation—temporarily.  However, in most cases, you will soon looking for greener pastures again if you do not do homework on yourself up front prior to making a career or job change.

The Successful Career Equation

In addition to values clarification, having a satisfying and fulfilling career involves taking into consideration three major components: skills/talents, interests, and business reality and combining them to formulate a career direction. The next logical step then is to research which industries, and then more specifically, which companies would be the best fit for you based on your own personal criteria.  The final steps in the job search model underline a more strategic and tactical approach and involve formulating an action plan for landing your ideal position. 

The equation for a fulfilling career looks like this:

Natural Talents/Learned Skills + Interests + Business Realty =
Fulfilling Career

Skills Assessment

Everyone has natural talents and abilities. These are things we generally start doing well from a very young age. This is the foundation of our skill set.  Our learned skills play off of our natural talents, but are not limited to them.  Most people are not “born” retail managers, software code writers, or editors.  The skills we need to perform these occupations involve both natural talents and learned skills.  In any new job, there is usually someone to show you the ropes and train you.  In essence, they are telling you what skills you need to have or further develop in order to perform the job well.  Identifying both your natural abilities and your learned skills is a key step in determining a fulfilling career path.

All skills can be broken down into two main categories: hard skills and soft skills.  Hard skills are the quantifiable skills; usually a certification, accreditation or something related to your education. Soft skills on the other hand, comprise the “hard to measure” skills such as people skills, communication skills, creativity, and problem solving, to name a few.  In today’s workplace, it’s the soft skills that are usually of greatest importance.  Regardless of your degree, companies are looking for problem solvers and people who can think out of the box and be creative.  People skills are also paramount due to the fact that so much is riding on the relationships that are built with customers and business partners.

Skills Exercise

A simple exercise for identifying your skills and abilities is to create a “laundry list” of the skills you have to offer.  We all have a solid set of skills we can transfer to another company or industry.  The question is, do we have enough of the right skills that would make us attractive to another employer.  The answer lies in creating your own personal “transferable skills laundry list.”

Here are the steps involved in clearly defining your transferable skill set:

  1. List all your former employers, your job titles and the years worked.
  2. Describe your main duties and responsibilities for each position.
  3. List the relevant skills you used to get the job done.  List these individually and then categorize them by hard and soft skills.  Be specific!
  4. Once you have done this for each occupation and position, construct a master list of hard and soft skills.
  5. Rank each skill in terms of your competency level and then re-list these in descending order.

Certain industries require certain mandatory skills and to a lesser degree, certain complementary skills.  You can find out exactly which mandatory and complementary skills are essential for a particular industry and then particular position by doing a little research.  You can then make the determination as to whether you can make a case for employment.

Natural Talents Exercise

Natural talents are the things we just seem to excel at without a lot of effort.  These are however, just as important as our hard and soft skills as natural talents often act as a compliment to our existing skill set.

Here is an exercise for helping you identify certain natural skills and talents:

  1. What are some things you cannot remember learning but know how to do and do well?
  2. What can you do well with little effort?
  3. What have people commented on positively regarding a certain skill?  What do people tell you that you do well?

Compare your answers here with your transferable skills list.  What are the similarities?  Circle the skills on your master list that you feel correlate well with your natural abilities.  These are the skills that must be utilized in order for you to have a high level of satisfaction in your job. The more clearly you’ve identified your skill set and the skills you enjoy using the most, the more easily you’ll be able to tell if your work suits you.  If you are only utilizing half of your favorite skills and talents in your present position, you’re probably only utilizing half of your enthusiasm for that job.

Keying in on Interests

Interests are also an integral part of a fulfilling career.  If the work we’re in is not interesting to us, our performance level will suffer and inevitably so will our ability to earn more money and be promoted through the ranks.  The next step then is to identify what your interests are. One method is to look for a product or service about which you can really become enthusiastic.  You will be most successful doing something or marketing something that you really love.

The key is to look for a product or service about which you can really become passionate.  Every product must have a champion. Every product or service must have someone in the business who really, really loves the product or service and is eager to get out and tell other people about it.

The Concept of Business Reality

If skills assessment and evaluating our interests are the first two parts of the Successful Career Equation, then the conception of business reality is the final component.  It’s always fun to daydream about dream job titles and what you would do if your hit the lottery jackpot.  However, for most of us, we need to consider our obligations—mainly financial.

One needs to figure exactly how much money they will need in order to meet their financial goals and commitments.  Estimates or approximations are not acceptable. Develop a spreadsheet or simple list detailing your financial information.  Also, it’s better to over estimate expenses than it is to under estimate, so when you reach your final monthly figure, add 10 percent.  Use this information in determining an acceptable salary range for yourself.

Optimism is paramount, but so is being realistic.  It can be the best job in the world for you but if by taking it you will not be able to meet your financial obligations on a regular basis, keep looking.  There is no sense going into debt because you liked the company or industry but chose the wrong position.

Making a successful career or job change involves doing homework on yourself.  Take some time to think about your values; who you are and what you believe in and what is important to you. Also, by identifying the three major components for a successful and fulfilling career; natural talents/learned skills, interests and business reality, you can minimize the risk of ending up in the wrong position—again. Be detailed and take your time.  Identify your skills and then which skills can be transferred to another company or industry.  Do some research and ask around regarding what is required for a particular occupation that may interest you and compare the requirements with what you have to offer.  Focus on the products and industries that appeal to you.  You will simply do a better job working with products that you can get excited about.  Finally, figure out to the dollar how much money you need—this is a necessary part of living in the 21st Century. 

Donald J. Strankowski Jr. is founder and President of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a training and consulting firm for businesses, professionals, executives.  He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at don@ascendcareers.net, or on the web at www.AscendCareers.net.

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