Become a Career Olympian!
And I've also been staying up way too late to watch the Olympics! I'm so proud of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen; they've been outstanding all around in their events. According to Yahoo! this morning, the USA has earned 101 medals so far (8 of which are the incredible gold medals won by record-breaker Michael Phelps - congratulations to him!).
While I love the thrill of the competitions, I'm truly amazed by the Olympians themselves. To paraphrase a comment made on "Project Runway" during their Olympic challenge, they are as close to real-live superheros as we can get. They are at peak performance levels, and they've trained endlessly to achieve their goals. Let's follow their example!
Today, I challenge you to commit to your career like an Olympian commits to his or her training. I want you focus on kicking your career into overdrive (especially if lately it's been chugging along like a golf cart), and I want you firing all cylinders as you work towards your career's peak performance level.
1. Create a "life skills" line: Record everything you know how to do - from birth until the present - and all the skills required to do them. What have you excelled at? (And they don't have to be just work-related...you'd be surprised how the skills you have in your hobbies translate into success into the workplace.)
2. Make a "life activity" line (layer it right over your "life skills" line). Identify the activies at work and at home that you enjoy doing. If your skill is problem-solving, activities you might like are troubleshooting at work or working on your car's engine. A career that is satisfying and challenging with incorporate some of those skills and activities.
3. Rate your enjoyment and aptitude of each entry on your line: 1 if you're excellent at it and love doing it; 5 if it's one of your weaker areas or if you wouldn't want to do it for more than a few hours. And with this info, you're going to then...
4. Create a clear picture in your mind of your next 5 career moves (they're not set in stone!). They could be in order and progressing up through your organization, or they could be lateral moves into other organizations or industries. Plotting out these career moves starts to set you up with a strategy for career advancement (and we all know how much I LOVE strategy!).
5. Map out opportunities within your organization. You got those 5 career moves in your head - where are they in your organization? Create a "treasure map" that you can follow, leading you to each of those 5 career moves. Who's holding those jobs now? What are your chances of earning that position? If there's a star blocking your route of advancement (think Don Draper of "Mad Men") who shows no signs of budging, then you should first do everything in your power to succeed and prove your worth in your current position (a shift all the way up line might occur) or you might want to consider moving to another company, which leads me to...
6. Map opportunities outside your organization. What organizations are the leaders in your industry? Are they looking for highly-skilled people like you, and if so, what could they offer you? Look for industries that are complementary to yours. There may be opportunities to not only bring your insights into a new industry, but also for you to be invigorated by a new set of challenges.
7. Assess people in higher levels of your organization. Give them a report card. Who does a great job? Who might be on his or her way out? Who might be open to talking to you about their position? What are their skills...and do you have them?
8. Make a list of people who would help you if they knew your career aspirations. While it's a good idea to be tentative about who you share your career plans with (especially if they include chucking your current job for another), you have people in your sphere of influence that can help you attain your career goals if you talk to them about those goals. Be selective in who you share your dreams with, but make sure you share your dreams with someone!
9. Use an interview as an excuse to go and speak to someone who has the job that you want. Does your company have a newsletter or a website that highlights employees and bosses? If so, go to the head of these departments and ask if you can do a profile on the person who has the job you want. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to have some of the burden taken off them, and I'm sure that the person you interview will be flattered that you're so interested in them and their job. Asking for an interview is a non-threatening way to do your research and gather information.
10. Join an industry organization. This is a primo networking opportunity just waiting for you to reach out and grab it. Learn about other companies in your industry, other positions you may be qualified for, and loads of other inside scoop that can help you strategize your next career move.