Building Your Career Part One

Building Your Career Part 1 - Figure Out What You Are Good At!

4 July 2016



Welcome to the first part of our series on how to build your career. Part 1 is focused on figuring out what you are good at and what you enjoy. There is no point in trying to develop if you don't enjoy what you do, or are not very good at it!

Step 1 - Ask Your Network

Most of us are now used to constructive feedback. You receive qualitative and quantitative data from your manager or subordinates (if 360 degrees). 

Normally, though, this information is gathered and analysed by someone else. So this is a different approach. 

  • Pick 10 people - a good mix of family members, friends, and colleagues both past and present. 
  • Ask these people - by email - for examples of your specific strengths. Ask for examples to support them. It is important to focus on positives as this exercise is about identifying what you are really good at. 
  • Use a tool like Survey Monkey if you think those in the group would prefer to give their feedback anonymously. However, you should try and choose people who are comfortable with you knowing 'who said what'. They will probably be more open.   

Step 2 - Take A Look At The Results To Identify Patterns

Gather the feedback (giving people plenty of time to respond). Organise it in a way that is easy to interpret for you (I would put it all into a spreadsheet). 

Be very honest with yourself about the results. You will recognise some of the content, but what you are hoping to see is elements that you had either not thought about before or had taken for granted. The results should surprise you, and you will have more strengths than you think! Your character will have had an impact on the individuals in many different ways. You are also hoping to see some broad alignment of themes across the answers. It would be concerning if there were significant differences in responses between work and personal contacts! 

Next, it is important that add your thoughts about the results. This reflection is part sense-check, part integration. Combining your ideas with someone else's gives you the chance to look not only at areas for improvement but to see the bigger picture and how the traits combine. 

Step 3 - Write Your Own Profile

Start writing a summary that combines the results from Step 2. Don't think about it too much. This is not a psychological assessment. It should a first-person, sticky statement. Did you ever complete a personal statement when you applied for university? I immediately thought about that when I started Step 3.

Think about the words that were used by those that contributed to your feedback. When I carried out this exercise, I created a mind-map (I'm quite a visual person) to help connect themes.

By now, you should also see how the results tie into your work history so far and clearly see the reasons why you have perhaps not enjoyed roles in the past. 

Once complete, this profile will give you a picture of what you would like your work-self to look like. 

Step 4

Finally, from your personal profile, create your perfect job description. It will differ from a normal job description as you must include both tasks that you do and do not want to perform in your next job.

Try and build this new job description into your current job. Can you make adjustments that will lead to benefits for both you and your current employer? These will in all likelihood be small changes that most roles can accommodate. It is, of course, important to work with your manager and team on this.

These should ultimately result in one of a few different outcomes:

  • performance improvement and increased job satisfaction.
  • a new job, or self-employment.
  • or, in order to do what you are really good at and get satisfaction from, you might need to go off on a tangent and do something completely different.

No matter the outcome, this exercise has given you a mission. It is something that - should be - sacrosanct and that can be used as a foundation for building your career.  

Written By Billy McDiarmid


Julie & Laura, thanks for your comments! @Julie - couldn't agree more. Communication is a key part of this process. @Laura - I'm glad you like this idea. It is something that we are not very good at doing. I think we expect people to provide us with feedback off the cuff when - actually - most people won't do that. It sounds like you are taking a considered approach already to your career - comparing different job offers is a good way of doing it - but carrying out this process before your next job move may help even more.
Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2016 08:34 by Billy McDiarmid
I like the idea of asking for feedback and constructive criticism from people who know me well to highlight things about myself that I wasn't aware of or hadn't considered. In my career so far I've mostly tried to engather as many good job offers as I can and then bargain them off against each other to get the offer I want.
Posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2016 12:11 by Laura Brown
Returning phone calls is essential to keeping the lines of communication open.
Posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2016 07:33 by Julie Bicker

Post Comment