3 simple steps to take charge of your career

3 simple steps to take charge of your career

Unfortunately or fortunately change is said to be the only constant in life. Parents will grow old, kids will age, technology will evolve and yes, careers will change.

In the past, career change & job-hopping was frowned upon but today it’s the norm in most industries.

For the past 10 months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with early to mid-career professionals seeking to make career transitions or attain some semblance of career clarity. For majority of us in this period, the concerns can be broken down into 3 key questions:

  1. How do I package my current skills/strengths for my next career step?
  2. How do I identify the gaps that I need to work on to get to where I want to be?
  3. What is my next step? I know I want a career change, but where to?

Having gone through career transitions myself (& currently going through one now) I understand the level of frustration and confusion that comes with it, not to mention the ever-present crippling thoughts:

Am I making the right decision?

Do I have the skills to get there or will I have to start from scratch?

What do I want to do with my life? I know what I am doing isn’t it, but other than that I have no idea what direction I’m headed in.

My career has no sense of direction! It’s all over the place. I feel so confused. :(

When these feelings of self-doubt and confusion begin to creep in, it’s important to take a minute and ask yourself,

  1. Why am I feeling this way?
  2. Are these feelings based on facts?

For you to actually sell yourself to others, you need to know your value. But you can’t know your value if you’re still in this stage of frustration, harboring feelings of inadequacy and confusion. During this period you might end up taking jobs/opportunities that you really don’t want, all in the name of panic & underselling yourself.

But how can you tell the difference between the facts vs feelings? It’s at this stage that I help my clients take stock of their career from the beginning till where they are now.

It’s all about walking together :)

If you’re currently feeling stuck, and would like to understand how to take stock of your career, here’s how:

1. Begin with your past.

You can’t discover where you want to go if you don’t know where you’ve been. In this first step, the objective is to capture your career backstory in a structured manner that will offer you a sense of clarity.

To do this, you’ll need to create an excel sheet and breakdown your career story into 5 key columns:

a) The name of the role & company

b) The responsibilities in that role.

c) The achievements in that role. Let the points here be as specific and quantifiable as possible.

d) The skills that stand out from the achievements listed, or those that were gained in the role.

e) The skills gained in that particular role that you’d like to continue growing. Sometimes the points in d) & e) might look alike, but there are instances where you gained a skill, but don’t wish to explore it any further.

The Career Map Template you can craft for yourself to help you map out your career journey thus far

The beauty of this exercise is that if you’re feeling unaccomplished, this framework will open your eyes to all that you’ve been able to achieve! Sometimes we assume that we haven’t done much, but more often that not we’ve done much more than we think. This adds logic to the mix, pushing away all the negative emotions.

Fun fact: You can also use this template for your performance review sessions. :)

Once you break down all your roles into the format above, the next step is:

2. Compile all the skills you’d want to continue to grow in/explore.

By this time, you’ve listed all your roles held, including freelancing & volunteering opportunities. Don’t shy away from including every relevant role in which you learnt/achieved a thing or two, particularly if you’re just starting out.

Now that you’ve already identified the skills you’d like to explore in column E. Make sure to take stock and notice which skills appear more often than others. That’s something to take note of. Does it mean that that’s your strongest skillset/strength? Or is it just a coincidence? Review your journey and figure out what that means for you.

Once you’ve noted down all the skills that appear at least once, list them down starting with the most popular to the least popular. You can list them down in a new column, highlighting the skills/strengths you value the most.

3. Create an action plan

With that comprehensive list in mind, you can now use the career map template to help you identify:

  1. The roles that align with your interests/current skillset. When reviewing job descriptions, you can get to see what roles you’d be most suited for based on your comprehensive skills list. This will help you know what jobs to apply for and how to sell yourself based on the quantifiable achievements listed in the career map template.
  2. The gap between where you are and where you want to be. If you already know where you want to be, you can conduct an online search for job descriptions aligned with your dream role, or even review the LinkedIn profile of someone who’s where you would want to be. This will help you see the gaps that exist between your current skillset and where you hope to be. Use the skills gap identified to craft a personal learning & development plan for yourself. Let’s get you on track to secure that dream job!
  3. The areas in your current job you’d like to explore a bit further. The career map template will help you see what your mainly focusing on and sometimes what your focusing/growing in, isn’t what you really want. This exercise will help you craft how to engage with your manager and what responsibilities to ask more of.
  4. How to craft your transition story. With this career map template, it’s much easier for someone looking to explore other career options to see how their skills are transferable and how to craft/sell their story to be inline with their new career path. You don’t always have to start all over again.

There are so many different action plans that one can draft from the career map template so feel free to explore what more you can get out of it based on your need.

This exercise, though time consuming, will help you achieve the career clarity & next steps you’re looking for. For some of you it will help you connect the dots to see that indeed your career does make sense or that you actually have the skills needed to make that transition! The possibilities are endless.

It can sometimes feel very overwhelming when everything is stored in our minds, but once you put it all down (or talk to a friend or coach who helps you put it down), things begin to make sense.

Your brain is for having ideas. Not holding them.

~ David Allen, Author of Getting Things Done.

So next time you feel confused about your career, pick up a physical or digital notebook and get to work.

All the best on your journey!


PS: Feel free to share in the comments any topics you would like me to cover, or any additional points to this article! :)


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