Assess your journey: What do you want to accomplish this year?

Question:

“I’m an accomplished mid-career professional. I’ve worked for more than 20 years in operational roles in a variety of call center and customer service roles. Presently, I hold the role of director with my company. I’ll earn my master’s degree in May 2014. I feel like I’ve done all I can in my current role. My company is in a state of transition, as well. I think it’s time for me to make a change, so I can secure a more responsible role with another company where I can make fuller use of my skills. Do you have any transitioning suggestions for me?”

Answer:

A new year is often a time for a fresh start. In that sense, I often encourage people to think about making some New Year’s resolutions for their careers. What do you want to accomplish this year? What new skill might you seek to develop? What can you do to increase your visibility in your organization? How are you doing in driving your “career car” toward your desired destination?

Within this column, I will talk about the stages of career development and some foundational career development competencies. Let’s start by exploring the stages of career development. As captured in the table below, there are some predictable stages or phases that attach to a work career.

Think in terms of a staircase that has positive progression to it. Climbing each stair brings new challenges and opportunities. The journey is increasingly complex until the destination or apex is reached. Understanding where you are on your journey can be helpful in forging some career development strategies.

Where do you fall relative to the career stages captured on the chart below?

What kinds of career strategies might you forge, looking to advance your “career car” further down the “highway?” Below, I highlight some factors or competencies you might want to reflect upon to make sure your career car is firing on all cylinders.

  • Computer literacy Stay current with emerging trends. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to be proficient. Continue to build your skills (e.g., take a class, seek guidance from a peer, etc.).
  • Interpersonal communication IQ (intelligence quotient) gets you in the elevator car, EQ (emotional quotient) dictates how fast and how far you go. The Center for Creative Leadership has documented that 80 percent of “rising stars” who had turned into “plummeting comets” shared a common trait—an “interpersonal flaw or deficit.”
  • Customer service “People who are well served, will serve well.” Develop proficiencies related to both internal and external customer service. Key skills include brokering, networking, and conflict resolution.
  • Personal qualities Advancement is driven by aptitude (i.e., technical skills . . . the “what”) and attitude (i.e., behavioral skills . . . the “how”). Key qualities/attributes include integrity, empathy, self- control, cooperation, dependability, stress tolerance, initiative, persistence, and adaptability.
  • Problem solving/decision making Keep building your “tool kit” of skills and capabilities. Seek out opportunities to expand your repertoire. Balance analytic thinking with systems and strategic thinking.
  • Job seeking skills Keep your resume current and up-to-date. Consider building a professional portfolio. Maintain an active network of professional contacts. Use a multi-modal approach when job seeking.

So, how do you rate in each of these foundational career development areas? To stay ahead, you have to move ahead. What can you do, this year, to build, enhance, or fine tune your skills in each of the six areas highlighted above?

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach, said, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction: knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

What are you going to do in 2014 to become the best of which you are capable within your chosen field?

Daniel A. Schroeder, Ph.D. is president of Brookfield-based Organization Development Consultants Inc. (www.OD-Consultants.com). He can be reached at (262) 827-1901 or Dan.Schroeder@OD-Consultants.com

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