Do you know what you want from your career? Many people are unsure and feel overwhelmed at the thought of trying to work this out. Start by conducting a personal audit of your strengths, weaker areas, potential opportunities and any challenges or other threats to your plans.
Known as SWOT analysis, this is frequently used in business to help focus time, energy and resources on the best possible options. When applying this approach to your own situation, you might find the following prompts will help stimulate your thinking:
Getting your priorities straight. Having considered the output from your self-reflection, you will have a clearer picture of your strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and value. You might add to this any feedback that you have received from others. As you review what you have learned, embrace positivity and speak to yourself in positive ways. Be honest with yourself. Now is the time to take ownership of what you focus on and what you let go of. Considering your strengths, skillset and future aspirations, what would you like to do more of? Note down your thoughts, and then think about what success looks like for you. Now consider the following prompts:
- How can you do more of what you enjoy?
- What skills do you need to improve for that to happen?
- How might you enlist support from others?
- What do you have to offer in return?
- What self-care activities will help you manage your wellbeing?
- How will you go about doing this, and by when?
- What is the first step that you will take?
I never dreamed about success. I worked for it. – Estee Lauder
Next, learn how to compensate for weaknesses by using your strengths to mitigate these. Consider who you might seek out as a mentor and guide to support you. Now you have a clear course of action with specific goals in mind; the critical issue is making it happen. Having a plan is just dreaming until you act to move closer to achieving what you desire, so set yourself up for success by effective time management.
There are many time management tools to consider. One of the best that I have found is the Urgent/Important Matrix invented by President Dwight Eisenhower. Not without good reason is highlighted by the business guru and author, Stephen Covey, in his bestseller ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People’. It works because it helps you decide on and prioritise tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important duties which you should either delegate or not do at all. Prioritising tasks by urgency and importance results in four quadrants with different work strategies. For every existing to-do on your list and every new one coming in, sit down and ask these critical questions:
- Is this task urgent? Does it need to be done today, or can it wait?
- Is this task vital for me personally? For my business, my family or my long-term career?
- Am I the best and the only one able to do this? Who might be better placed?
- Is there something of little urgency and importance I could stop doing right now?
Your goal should be to trim down your existing to-do list and carefully review any new task coming in, starting today. Be honest, realistic and try to reflect on your responses. You will become more confident in automatically categorising functions over time. Using this simple method of time management will help you get the right things done. For more details, check out the resources on https://www.eisenhower.me/
Broaden your mind. Seek out time for quiet reflection daily. This practice clears mental clutter, reduces anxiety and stress, and improves your focus. Learn to manage your emotions. Writing, taking a walk, meditation, and yoga are all helpful. Be open to fresh concepts and explore different perspectives as these can result in potential new career opportunities and directions. Being curious is also an essential aspect of developing a growth mindset. In a growth mindset, you continually learn and expand your options by connecting with new ideas, people, and places.
Evolve and explore. Step outside of your comfort zone and experiment with different experiences. Why not consider learning a new sport, a language, an instrument or a game that instils a sense of achievement, self-confidence and resilience. If time is short, why not try TED Talks to gain insights from global thought leaders or use audiobooks to explore new ideas and skills. Maybe virtually visit an art gallery or museum for inspiration, such as the V&A, which has brilliant online resources. Try reading a book that you would typically shun. Even varying your route to work and taking a 20-minute break at lunchtime to walk somewhere green can stimulate the mind.
Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. – Maya Angelou
Focus on bringing value in all your interactions, roles and endeavours. Be determined, persistent and purposeful in your choices, and you will get the career you want, not the one that is happening to you.
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