Planning Your Work Future

Where are you headed?

Maybe you’re already on track for your “dream job,” or maybe you don’t even know what it looks like yet.  Either way, now is a great time to start thinking critically about your professional future.

First things first, you need to know yourself. This isn’t actually as easy as it sounds. Sure, you are yourself, but how often have you really focused on critically understanding your professional strengths, values, and limitations?  To really do this well, you’ll need to invest in some serious (and honest) self-evaluation, and you may want to consider some psychological-type tests like the Myers & Briggs Personality Type test.  Tests can help you see yourself in a different way and may identify areas of importance that you haven’t considered.

In addition to strengths and values, you also need to recognize your limitations.  One of the devotionals I read this week was right on topic, it drew from Romans 12:3:

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

The author (Pastor Rick Renner) explained that the word "soberly" is the Greek word sophroneo, which means to think sensibly; to think reasonably; to think realistically; to think rationally; to think practically; to keep in proper measure; or not to think beyond the set boundaries.  In other words, don't pretend to be more than you are! Recognize your God-given abilities and use them. But when you come to the edge of your limitations, be willing to say, "This is too much for me." (If you’re interested in more from Pastor Renner, you can check him out here.)

Next, taking your strengths, values, and limitations into account, you need to shape your goals. Create a list of at least ten key workplace characteristics.  Think beyond the type of work you want to do, to include the culture of a company, the work team, and the elements of the job that best fit you.   Are you naturally competitive like me?  It might be crucial to have some element of “pay for performance” in your ideal compensation structure.  Do you have (or plan to have) a family?  Work flexibility and family-friendly culture may factor high on your list.

Finally, you need to think strategically. Coming out of business school, I knew that I wanted to aim for the “C-Suite” (CEO, CFO, COO, ect.).  One of my Professors, Dr. Salhman, warned me that to get to the C-Suite, your area of expertise must be in the company’s main line of business.  This advice stuck with me and when I found myself working in (and enjoying) marketing consulting for an international accounting firm, I realized that I would need to make a change.  I was gaining some valuable job experience, but I knew that marketing couldn’t make me a key leader in an accounting business.   So I made the best of the situation and moved on when the right opportunity presented itself.   Maybe your goal is to make partner at your law firm, or to become the principal of a school someday.  Consider (investigate if necessary!) what strategic steps you can take now to help set you on the right path.

As you move forward, don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out at once.  Sometimes even if you find a job that seems to meet all of your ideal criteria, you will learn that a key element is missing and realize that the job still needs some “tweaking.”   Coming up on Wednesday when we continue our interview with Andrea Lucado, she’ll tell us how she started out doing a job she hated for a company she loved, and how she worked with her employer to find a better fit.