How do I get clarity about my career direction? – Part I

It doesn’t seem to matter how far we’ve made it in our career, most of us are still sitting around trying to figure out what we should do NEXT. If you’re one of the focused few who knows exactly what you want to do, bravo! That’s half the battle. But do you know how you’re going to get there or even what your next step will be? Maybe you stumbled into a great career path by accident and now that you’re climbing the ladder you need to be more intentional about each and every career move. At Catch Your Big Break, we’re here to help with that!

There’s a great piece of wisdom in Zen Buddhism that says that if you’re not careful to change direction, you’ll end up where you’re headed. Where are you headed? Is it really where you want to go? It’s time to start being intentional and charting your own course. There are three steps you’ll need to take to start moving your career in the right direction. I’ll discuss the first one here and the next two in subsequent blogs, so stay tuned. The best is yet to come.

 STEP ONE: Taking Inventory

Before you can figure out specifically where you want your career to go, you have to figure out where you might be interested in going. It doesn’t make much sense to vacation to China if you have no interest in Asian culture, or to vacation in Mexico if you hate Mexican food. It sounds pretty basic, but if we were really honest with ourselves most of us would have to admit that we’re not really sure where we WANT our careers to go, and that’s why they’re not moving in the right direction.

 So let’s back up a step. Let’s look at who YOU are. From there, let’s see what paths are the best natural fit for you. The first part of step one is simple: take some time to sit quietly and reflect. I received some of the best career advice when I was a senior in college. To figure out what career will be best for you, consider two things: what am I interested in, and what am I good at? Find the place those two intersect and that will be your ideal career.

 Take some time to seriously think about your interests and your talents. When you take those into account, are you even working in the right industry? Do you love your organization but dislike your particular job? What other skills do you have that might make you valuable in another department in your organization?

 The second part of this step is equally important: take some self-assessments. Before you decide to run off in a new career direction, honestly and soberly consider your skills and abilities, your strengths and weaknesses, and your personality and workplace behaviors. You’ll need to understand and know how to most effectively use each of these traits in order to get into the right industry or position for you. You can click here to discover how you can get a comprehensive list of personality inventories, workplace behavior profiles, and assessments of one kind or another, as well as exact URLs where you can find them (usually free or at a very low cost).  Try two or three different assessments (we like StrengthsFinder and DISC, for example) because each will paint a slightly different picture for you.

 You should also talk to your friends, family, and co-workers to see what additional insight they can provide. Often our greatest strengths are things that come so naturally to us that we don’t realize how unique we are in our abilities. The same people who can comment on your strengths can also help you identify areas of weakness or can reveal personality traits that might make a particular career or position a poor fit for you. Bringing trusted advisors into your self-assessment will provide you with a well-rounded picture of who you are. Make sure you record the feedback in writing somewhere so you have it for future reference.

Melinda Barrow is an HR Consultant for Catch Your Big Break. For more information about Melinda and her work, contact her here.