Take a step back from all the uncertainty to assess your next professional goal.
Even in these uncertain times, spring is a time of renewal and growth. Nature understands that seasons of rebirth are vital for continued development; however, many of us can either get stuck in a rut—or face so much change that we neglect to reflect on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Join in this season of renewal by doing some professional spring cleaning.
If you want to move forward, you need to take a step back and evaluate. Whether you desire to grow in your current role or are seeking an entirely new position, you can chart a path of progress. The first step is to assess your career. It can be tempting to gloss over this step. While mental work is some of the hardest work we do, it is also some of the most productive. Take an hour or two of dedicated time of reflection on the last year. Put away your phone, avoid interruptions and ask yourself these four questions:
1. What projects gave me the greatest satisfaction? Cleaning expert Marie Kondo has made a brand—and now a successful Netflix series—out of asking people to evaluate their possessions with one question: “Does it bring you joy?” It is useful to identify what you find meaningful at work. How can you leverage your passion into new avenues to benefit your organization? Just as you should understand the work that invigorates you, you should also be aware of the tasks you avoid. While we can’t donate the tasks that we’ve outgrown to Goodwill, understanding how you operate can inform even the less enjoyable parts of your job and shape the way you approach them.
2. Where were my shortcomings? It’s uncomfortable to dwell on our failures, but for us to progress beyond them, it’s essential to do so. An annual reflection is beneficial. Consider how different practices could change your outcomes. Seek out someone who is strong in the areas where you are weak and ask for advice. Give attention to both traits and training. What personal traits hamper your success? What additional training would enable you to excel in your career? Being honest about your flaws can seem intimidating, but in reality, it is freeing. On some level, you are aware of your failures. Like a monster under the bed is diffused by turning on a light, when you honestly appraise your shortcomings, they become much more manageable.
3. What do my colleagues say? Reflection does not need to be a solitary endeavor. Your colleagues have a vantage point that you lack. Consider the feedback you get from those around you—both positive and negative. Colleagues will see blind spots you miss and recognize abilities that you take for granted. Solicit input from others. Take a trusted coworker out to lunch and talk about how you function in your organization. Be open and gracious about their feedback. Defensiveness will not help you move past your weaknesses, nor will it encourage others to offer constructive input.
4. What avenues do I want to explore? Think about your current role. How might you expand your position? Think beyond your job tasks and title. Professional goals do not exclusively mean things inside the scope of your job for your employer. Perhaps you want to write a journal article with a colleague. Maybe you’d benefit from joining a professional organization. Give yourself space to consider how you’d like to develop.
Translate to Action
Once you have inventoried your career and ambition, make a list of actionable steps. Divide your items into three lists: immediate steps, long-term goals and items for future consideration. Put tasks on your to-do list and reminders in your calendar to keep your momentum throughout the year. You will not accomplish everything right away, so it’s key to strike a sustainable rhythm. Try to schedule two things monthly for your professional development. That can be as simple as a networking luncheon or as ambitious as taking a course. Start with large items, such as seminars, conferences, and training, and fill in with more accessible items. Make an annual practice of reflection and planning. This will enable you to build on progress and see results from year to year.
With more than 20 years of executive search consulting experience, Cheryl Hyatt has been responsible for successfully recruiting senior-administrative professionals for educational and non-profit organizations. Before partnering with Dr. Fennell to form Hyatt-Fennell, she was the president and owner of The Charitable Resources Group and provided not only executive search services but fundraising consulting expertise to the clients she served.