Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career changes, career transitions 2: knowing where you are now and starting an assessment process

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 21, 2013

This is my second installment in a series that I have been preparing to write for this blog since my first posting, and certainly since I began writing to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development (and also see its directory continuation page.) One of the points I raised in Part 1 of this series: thinking through and planning for a career path and work life was to cite a career development and management exercise that I have found helpful over the years in thinking through and planning my own career, and that I repeat here:

• Think of where you would like to be and what you would like to be doing in five years. Now what could you do today, that in however small a way might help you reach that?

This is very goals-oriented and I add that knowing where you seek to go is crucial if you are to ever get there. But I begin this in the here and now and in understanding where you are now and how you got here. I add that even when you are primarily looking at career development in terms of what you want to do and accomplish next and on a long-term basis, knowing where you are now and how you reached that can help you to throw a wider net in considering all of your options for moving forward. So I begin with an exercise that everyone does when actually looking for a new job but that we rarely do when we feel settled in a job and a current career step: resume writing.

Fourteen of my postings listed in the first page of my jobs and careers guide’s directory include the word “resume” in their title. But to keep this discussion focused, I primarily cite the five postings on resume writing that I include there in my series: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search Isn’t Working (see postings 60-64 in the Guide.)

• Write out an “everything included the kitchen sink” resume that goes into all of the details that you see as important in having shaped your career. The goal here is not to draft a resume version that would be appropriate for some specific, focused job search. The goal here should be to think through and organize your career story from the beginning to now.
• In your bullet points for each of the positions you have held, focus on general skills learned and on accomplishments that have held value both to your employers and to yourself as a person. Transiently used and briefly valued skills in, for example, using some particular software package are not as important here as learning and using more broadly transferable skills.
• Now broaden this resume-formatted document to include outside interests and any volunteer or other work you might have done, not strictly speaking part of your career path up to now. Include hobbies and everything else where you have created sources of value, and for yourself or others. The priority here should be to be inclusive.
• And when you have finished this, and after setting it aside and coming back to it with fresh ideas, and after writing and revising and rethinking and revising it again – after you see this as having captured what you see as long-term important for you, create a shortened version that distills out the most important organizing ideas and values, knowledge, strengths and experience that you would bring to any next job or job after that. Write this shorter version as a resume to yourself as a hiring manager. Write it to be the length of a standard clean and brief job search resume and with a goal of presenting what you see in yourself as most meaningful as to who you are as a professional.
• This is a draft statement as to where you are, here and now professionally.

I write and a lot, so a written approach to this comes to mind very quickly for me. But even if you find writing a chore, and even if you have trouble organizing your thoughts in written format do this anyway. Force yourself to think this all through in a systematic and organized way and to present it in writing in a way that would make your professional here and now understandable to others. This helps to insure that you really do think all of this through and without conceptual or logical gaps. That will make this exercise and the fruits of it useful and even valuable for you as you use it to move forward.

• Now think back to your writing and rewriting about your career history up to now, and with both vocational and avocational experiences included.
• What has your job to job and employer to employer career trajectory been like up to now and what about it has satisfied you and left you feeling fulfilled? That can be a matter of specific positions held, but the more important understandings here come from thinking through what made those positions fulfilling for you.
• And what have you seen as significantly missing in all of this? What have you always wanted to do that your career or series of careers up to now have not satisfied, for bringing you to accomplish them? What have you come with time to see as missing in all of this, and as increasingly important for its absence?
• Now go back to that question in my repeated bullet point at the top of this posting. Think of where you would like to be and what you would like to be doing in five years. Now what could you do today, that in however small a way might help you reach that?
• This can and should include continuing on and enriching your experience along career paths you have followed, but be sure to add in the more important of what you see as missing too and yet to be realized.
• And take your time with this. I am writing here about careers and the long term and not just about the immediate here and now of finding and landing a job to meet immediate and current needs.
• And I am writing about finding and pursuing the right job progression and the right career path that can hold real meaning for you and where you in turn can create the greatest value and for yourself and your family and for others. Do this while taking the more immediate needs steps of looking for a new job in the here and now, or while taking the steps needed to advance your career with a current employer. Do this so that long-term, you pursue those here and now steps in ways and directions that make sense for you.

This seems to be a logical place to end this posting, with an organized and separable part of a larger career development discussion in place and with that centered around a significantly demanding hands-on exercise. I would recommend that you at least start on that writing and thinking and rewriting exercise, and I will return to this series and this general discussion with a next installment in a few days. My goal there will be to look at what you have begun to assemble as a picture of where you would like to go next in your career, and it will be about bringing that into practical, achievable focus. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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