In healthy relationships, you don’t wait around for someone else to validate or complete you. Likewise, a healthy career can blossom once you accept that your employer is not solely responsible for your professional development. Cultivating your knowledge and talent is a DIY pursuit that you should take on yourself if you want to get ahead.
I know that when I first entered the working world, eager but naive, I believed that if I simply did my job well, someone would notice, and there would be some opportunity to work my way upward. Over the course of a few years, I was bored, underutilized, and disappointed that no one had bothered to challenge me or encourage me to develop a new skillset. It wasn’t until I started freelancing that I felt the sense of empowerment to decide what I wanted to do, then find a way to start doing it. Without the confines of a company, I could explore without asking permission.
But I don’t think you need to be a freelancer to move forward in your career. After applying some of my freelancing lessons to my full-time job, I realized just how easy it is to be your own carreer coach. All you need is a web browser to complete a career audit that will show you a clear path between where you stand and the job of your dreams. Whether you’re on the job hunt or not, the career audit can help you stay current and keep your larger goals in sight. It can also be a great tool to help you realize which skills and knowledge you can leverage for a raise or promotion at your current place of work.
WHAT IS A CAREER AUDIT?
A career audit is like a competitive analysis that allows you to learn more about the job you have or want. It’s a tool designed to help you identify your areas of expertise and opportunities for growth. You’ll find out where you stand compared to experts in your area and the expectations of hiring companies.
Too often, people wait until they start job hunting to think about what companies want and need in a candidate. Taking advantage of this easy process on a regular basis can help you pursue those qualifications proactively, making you an ideal candidate once you’re ready to strike!
GET AHEAD OF YOURSELF
A career audit is a time to think about where you want to be in the long run. No one wants to put a ton of work into a lateral move, so dream big! You have nothing to lose! It’s easy to get stuck thinking about the little things that would make you better at the job you have now or bump you up to the next rung, but the purpose of a career audit is to identify your big picture goal and draw a path from it to where you are here and now.
If you already have the job you want, this might be a great opportunity to figure out how to position yourself as a leader in the field or move into a position with your dream employer.
For me, I had a general idea of the kind of work I was interested in, but I was pulled in too many directions to claim an interest in any one career path. When I did this audit, I finally found the exact jobs I wanted to work toward, and that alone has recalibrated all of my professional development efforts in a very specific direction.
7 STEPS TO A CLEARER PATH
At the end of your career audit, you’ll have three useful documents that you can reference throughout the course of your professional development efforts: an archive of related job openings in your area, a collection of LinkedIn profiles from successful professionals in your chosen field, and an organizer that connects the dots between what the strengths you already have and the things you need to work on. I recommend completing these steps at least once a year, but I search weekly for postings and profiles that give me new clues and ideas.
- Make a list of job titles you are interested in. Often, there are variations in how people refer to the same position. If you haven’t narrowed it down to specific titles, make a list of the key responsibilities you are looking for. As you search, take down the titles of jobs that fit these requirements.
- Visit job sites and search for your desired position. If you’re in the early stages of career discovery, general sites like Craigslist, Indeed or Monster will be useful since they will yield the largest number of results. Once you know what title you want, you might have better luck on industry-specific job boards, professional association websites, or LinkedIn.
- Take note of what companies are hiring in your area, what type and size company they are, and how many listings appear for this position.
- Copy relevant job listings into a document. The more listings, the better.
- Search for leaders in your field, especially local ones, and copy their LinkedIn profiles or other professional information into a document. Again, the more, the better.
- Using the organizer below, make lists of the skills, knowledge, experience and personal characteristics described in your archive of job listings and leader profiles.
- Highlight the most mentioned items and use those as the basis for your course of professional development.
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
My hope is that the career audit will help you break down your career goal into more manageable steps. Or, if you aren’t sure what you want your dream job is, I hope this helps you gain some insight about how to leverage the skills you have into something new. Once you have filled out this chart and completed your audit, you’ll likely have a strong sense of what you need to work on next. With so many resources at your disposal — freelancing, online education, internships, books, schools, professional communities and mentors — there are more ways than ever to check any deficiencies right off your list.
Comment below to tell me about your dream job and what you learned from the career audit!