It’s that time of the year…when we take stock of the year winding down and look forward to what improvements we’d like to see in the coming year. One area of self improvement that many examine is advancement in their career — either with their current organization or in someplace new. If you’re looking to make a career change in 2015, you need to ask some key questions that will guide you to success.
As Stephen Covey notes: begin with the end in mind. Visualize where you would like to be at this time next year. Ask yourself “when I’m looking back at the end of 2015, what will success look like for me?” Your criteria for success can be anything you’d like: higher compensation, a bigger title, more responsibility, more meaning to your work. It can be all or some combination. You get to decide.
Once you’ve decided on what success in 2015 looks like, the next question to ask is “am I on track to get there?” Will your current path take you to where you want to be a year from now? If so, great; you’re on your way! If not, what changes need to occur to get you on track? Identifying and executing these changes becomes the challenge for success in the coming year.
Career success begins with knowing your purpose: “What is it I’m meant to do?” The leadership expert Simon Sinek says you should start with your why: the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. Sinek notes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. By knowing your purpose, what inspires you to do your work, you will feel differently about your job. You will be more productive and more creative. You will treat your colleagues and clients and customers better.
Next gain clarity about your work. Ask “what am I really good at? What do I like to do? What do I not like doing?” What is your sweet spot, that thing you do better than anyone else? Your response to this question begins to formulate your value proposition. And yes, there is something you do better than anyone. You just have to explore the issue. Typically, what you do really well, you do intuitively. However, it’s incumbent on you to explain your strengths to others. If you’re having difficulty identifying your unique strengths and value, ask the people around you, those in your professional life and your personal life; get their assessment.
Once you have your purpose identified and clarity around your value, you need to focus on the stories you’re telling — to others and to yourself — about what you do, why you do it and the value you bring. These stories should highlight competence and accomplishments that illustrate your value.
Finally, you need a strategy; a plan of action that gets you to where you want to be. Knowing your purpose, getting clarity around your unique value and being able to articulate your value also requires execution: identifying small actions that lead to big changes. Don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the career change you desire. Take small steps that move you forward throughout the year. Enlist the help of others — colleagues, friends and family — who can help you along the way. You don’t have to do all this by yourself.
So, over to you. Are you ready to raise the bar for your career in 2015? Can you take the steps necessary that will get you to where you want to be?
This post originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald on December 22, 2014.