Today, I interviewed a medical doctor working as a researcher and in the final year of writing her dissertation in Public Health. Yes, she may be an over-achiever, but I’m seeing more and more medical professionals obtaining dual degrees in Public Health; it keeps their options open. My interest in this person isn’t in what she studied, but more in what she was planning to do with her academic and professional experience. She had an active plan and was exploring her possibilities.
After twenty years of recruiting and counseling clients, companies, and candidates about careers, I’ve found that being proactive in your selection of positions and companies is key. What impressed me most about this doctor/researcher was how she got to the crux of things and focused on where she could add value to an organization.
“With my clinical and research skills, plus my ability to consider complex challenges, I think consulting is the way to go,” she told me.
We spoke further and I told her that she had many talents, but the most important of these were her awareness of which tools she had in her toolbox, how to use these tools, and most of all, to continually add skills to her toolbox.
This is the time of year to take stock of what’s in that box of skills. As you assess these abilities, remember to consider both hard skills like technical expertise, subject matter knowledge, computer skills, or specialized knowledge. Soft skills are important too, but they need to be presented in a impactful way. For example, if you feel you are a strong communicator, that’s great – but describe it in more concrete ways, like the ability to write a strong proposal, or deliver a report to a client, or present at a conference. It’s always better to describe the tools that you have, and how they apply to prospective employers, than merely stating that you have them.
When you do an inventory of your “tools”, you can also compare them to the activities you enjoy the most in the workplace. These activities, consisting of what you like and what you are best at doing, often align. Furthermore, sometimes you need to update your “tools” and/or get a refresher. This can include a seminar, a short course, a full length program, or on-the-job experiences. Making sure that you are current and growing as a professional will have huge impact on your career advancement.
Remember that doctor and how I admired her active plan? Many professionals fall into a job and let their career wander; sometimes this works fine, but other times you can wake up and find you have become stagnant. By regularly checking in on your skills, your interests, and your continued growth as a professional, you will take charge of your future. Each time you consider other options within your firm or outside your firm, you will want to evaluate the opportunities on three merits.
- Is the role a good match of my skills and the needs of the company?
- How will I add value to the organization in this role?
- Will I learn new skills and gain capabilities that will allow me to have more options in the future?
If you are aware of your self and proactive with the management of your career, you will have more options. The end of the year is a good time to be self-reflective. Make those lists of your many talents, consider your professional and personal interests, and evaluate if it may be time to sharpen up some of your tools, or invest in some new ones. New year, new possibilities.