Are You Ready For a Career (R)evolution?

How to keep your skills and abilities ahead of the curve.

By + More

Marla Gottschalk
Marla Gottschalk
The ability to transform has become a core skill set in today's world of work. If you are not continually evolving in sync with changing organizational goals, the direction of your industry or the larger operating external environment, you might find yourself "short changed" career-wise. Whether you work in sales or operations, human resources or social media, one attribute critical to remaining razor-sharp is the ability to flex and change with your surroundings. Strategy is key, and seeking a broadened perspective of our own skills, abilities and actions is an important step in this process.

So, how do we ensure that we evolve and stay ahead of the game? A general willingness to learn and reflect is a great place to start, and becoming open to the idea of gaining insight through coaching is another. Ultimately, if we cannot examine our own contribution to the career puzzle, this can limit our effectiveness in our current role, and ultimately, its trajectory. As such, becoming keenly self-aware can be the first step in accelerating a career forward.

As explained by Allison Rimm, a coach, strategic planning consultant and author of the forthcoming, "The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life," "It is important to identify your blind spots and shine a spotlight on areas in which you need to improve. A fresh perspective can provide you with an accurate diagnosis of any issues that need to be addressed along with a prescription for doing so."

Unfortunately, there is no single litmus test to determine if you have the determination to evolve. However, there are a number of points to consider to help gauge your readiness:

  • You seek out the "real story." To put it plainly you see the value in gaining a 360 degree "view of you." For example, you might consider how your unwritten or invisible résumé might be affecting your path. If you have an awareness of what might be getting in your way, you have already opened the door to change.
  • You feel that you have the keys. Having an internal locus of control is an important aspect to consider. It can be helpful to have an orientation that allows you to feel capable of impacting your own work life for the better.
  • You've identified role models. Whom do you aspire to emulate and why? Identifying the qualities that could lead to the success you crave is quite important. For example, are your target role models exemplary communicators? Skilled negotiators? Strategic listeners? How might you evolve?
  • You can process the tough stuff. There aren't many of us who enjoy hearing negative information about our work or how we have behaved, but this is a necessary step for growth. We all tend to shy away from discussing our potential downfalls, but processing this type of information can prove pivotal.
  • You reflect on your failures. This may seem counterintuitive, but we all need to dwell on our failures to grow professionally. Whether the failure manifests as an overlooked opportunity to collaborate, or a missed client deadline, we need to revisit these moments. Although uncomfortable, it can be time well spent.
  • You've started your own development plan. It is important to start an evolution on your own – no need to wait for permission. For example, identify the five skills or traits that you might need to succeed going forward in your industry. Imagine you are speaking to an intern in your profession and your advice is the only guidance they will ever hear. What would you tell them that they will need to succeed?
  • You can approach with a sense of humor. Attempting to disarm negative emotions with humor can be highly advantageous when you are seeking change. If you can extract the subtle humor in a setback (give it a bit of time), this can be the start of a "growth spurt."
  • You are willing to invest the needed energy. An evolution (and certainly a revolution) can be trying at times, so be sure that you enter the process with a store of patience. Lasting growth can take time.
  • Going forward sometimes demands that we revise our tactics. Often a subtle evolution in your perspective can lead to a revolution in your actions. As Rimm explains, "I believe Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result."

    Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop intelligently—to meet work life challenges with a sense of confidence and empowerment.