Pulse Check: A self-reflection checklist to pursuing your next career move

As a management consultant, my job was to provide knowledge and expertise to my clients on how to solve a problem or challenge and usually involved giving them a set of recommendations on how to proceed. In my experience, even when we were really familiar with the client or problem, the recommendation on what to do did not magically drop into our brains one day in a flash of insight. Instead, it’s something we would discover, through a rapid but thoughtful process of gathering insight, testing, getting feedback, and then coming up with a recommendation on how to best proceed.

This notion is similar when it comes to making career decisions. As a Career Coach, a common question I get when working with my clients on building their careers is “How do you balance doing your everyday work with thinking about the next career move, or, how do you know when to look (or not look) for a new job?”

These are important and thoughtful concerns – we are not certainly defined by our jobs but they make up a significant portion of how we spend our time each week. And like anything important, putting in time to think and reflect before making a decision is a good thing to do. Over the years, to help me answer these questions I’ve built a framework to help me answer some of these questions and figure out how I am feeling about work, which helps inform if I need to make changes.

With that, I like to think of my career as 2-year sprints. During that sprint, I do a major check-in once every six months. During the check-in, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Am I learning everyday? – I am at my best when I’m most engaged/immersed in my work, and that happens when I’m challenged or when I have to learn something in order to do my job
  • Do I like and respect the people that I am working for and with? – I get my energy by working on high-performing teams, and I do my best work in a supportive and collaborative environment. Furthermore, I value and respect people who treat others with respect. This environment ensures I can do my best work
  • Am I committed 100% to doing my best work? – I do my best work and exceed my expectations when I’m fully committed to what I’m doing. I don’t meet my expectations when I’m sort of committed or ambivalent.
  • What have I improved, or strengthened since my last check-in? – As someone who believes in the growth mindset, I believe its important to continue growing both strengths and weaknesses. If I can accurately pinpoint skills I’ve developed or development areas that I’ve improved since my last check in, I know that I’m probably happy where I am.
  • Is there something else that’s taking a significant portion of my mindshare or attention? – I think about the things that are on my mind, and pay attention to my thoughts. Can I identify a specific problem, challenge, or topic that I’m constantly thinking about? If my time is spend on what is currently in front of me, I know I’m probably progressing down the right path. But if it’s on something else, I’ll need to revisit what that is, and understand why I’m focusing on it so much.

For me, it’s about doing a check-in every once in awhile to take stock of what I am doing, how I am doing, and to get a sense of if I need to make changes. Changes can mean anything from adding some more social events to my calendar to help with my well-being, to starting the process of finding a new job, and anything in between. The focus for me is getting clarity on what’s currently going on, and figuring out the best way to keep going. In some cases, nothing needs to be done, but in others, changes are needed.

As I’ve conducted these check-ins numerous times over my career, I’ve learned a few things along the way:

There are always ups and downs – That’s okay, and it’s part of life and your career. Work is just that – Work! Which mens, there are ups and downs and stressful weeks. This happens and is part of life

You need to give it time – In my experience both as a professional and career coach, I’ve come to believe you need at least 6-8 months to get a first set of hypotheses/feedback on a job. If you stay for anything less, you might not get the full cycle (save for a few exceptions)

Considering The Future is a good thing – It can be easy to put your blinders on and execute on the tasks in front of you, so thinking about what’s next is a good thing to do. However, it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand. Try to time box your future planning, or, save it for times when you have more energy/time to devote to other things

If I can answer yes with supporting evidence for all those questions, that’s usually a green light to keep going. If there is a no, or a lack of supporting evidence to any of those questions it means I need to do some additional probing to understand the root cause.

In some cases, there are factors that cause me to answer no that I recognize and appreciate but am OK with moving forward on. In other cases, I need to either A) dig further, B) create an action plan for how I am going to work through it or C) it’s time for me to put the wheels in motion for moving on to my next opportunity

It’s not a binary decision of Yes/No, but it’s a simple framework for how I like to evaluate my job in the arc of my career. The main takeaway here is not the questions or the check-ins but the ability to dig deeper into understanding what’s causing my feelings and to do something about it, whether that means keeping up the great work or starting to search for something new.

I encourage everyone to come up with their own framework and series of questions that they can reflect on every few months. I think you’ll find it will help you figure out what’s going on, what the root of it is, and what actions you can take to make the right next move.

For Career Success, Find These 3 People

Three Amigos. Three Ghosts. Father Son and Holy Spirit. Rule of three. Everything comes in threes, even when it comes to your own personal development.

The MMA trainer Frank Shamrock has a system he trains fighters in that he calls plus, minus and equal. He believes that every great fighter needs three people in order to become great:

“Each fighter, to become great, he said, needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lessor who they can teach and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.”

The better fighter teaches you the ropes, and helps you find new techniques and strategies. The equal challenges you and pushes you to be your best, and the lessor enables you to demonstrate what you’ve learned and help someone else.

Three people. More than three is great, but that’s all you need to start.

So, who is in your plus, minus, and equal?

How self-reflection can fuel Job Search Success

I work with a lot of professionals who are looking to make job transitions, whether that’s from school to the workforce or from one job to another job. While some of my clients know exactly what they want to do, there are many others who know they want a change but are not exactly sure what kind of change they are looking for.

I think one of the most important factors to a successful job search strategy is a self-reflection of where you are today and where you want to go in the future. For some people, self-reflection and assessment is fairly simple, but for others, it’s ambiguous, so I wanted to lay out a step by step process for how to use a self-reflection process to identify where you are and where you want to go.

 

Identify what you’ve done

First, you need to understand what you have done and what skills and experiences you’ve achieved from your past work experience. This may seem like a simple statement, but it’s easy to get so laser focused on doing your job that you forget to take stock of the projects, tasks, assignments and actual responsibilities you’ve had as well as the impact of what you’ve done. Sit down, and literally write out all the things you did in your job(s) Go through your emails, your laptop, ask your co-workers or your friends, go through all means necessary to understand the scope of what you’ve done.

Identify your strengths

Once you’ve clearly laid out and understood what you’ve done and the valuable skills and experiences you’ve obtained, start identifying your strengths and the things that you are good at doing. Maybe you are a great communicator, or, really great with analyzing data and drawing insights. Everyone has a set of strengths that when utilized properly, make a contribution to your organization. Your goal in this exercise is to identify the ones you bring to the table. Same as last time, write these things out so you can start to see what strengths your bring to the table.

Identify your interests

Additionally, you’ll also want to identify the things that you enjoy doing. While not every job will have 100% enjoyment, it’s important to know the types of things you like to do and want to do. This is because many of us are more engaged and excited by things we enjoy doing, and we tend to exert my energy, enthusiasm and are equipped to do these things well.

So why do you need to do all these things? In a very simplistic view, when you look for a job, you’ll probably want to look for jobs that have opportunities for you to use your experience, strengths, and things you enjoy doing.

Identify the future

Once you understand the present, you’ll want to identify what’s in store for you in the future. What type of job do you want to do? The goal here, is to develop some hypotheses about different jobs you think you’d like. The goal here is not to be 100% correct, but rather, to come to a few hypotheses about what potential paths might be desirable for you to pursue. So, how do you go about doing this?

Research – Using your skills/experiences, interests, and strengths, start looking at future jobs or roles and evaluate if they are a good fit. Sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are a great place to start. Does the job you’re evaluating make use of the strengths and experiences you bring to the table? If so, that might be a potential good fit

Network – Talk to people who are already doing the jobs you might be interested in. Get to know what their day is like, and get to know the strengths they use everyday and what they like/dislike about their job

Learn – Learning something new has never been easier. Take an online class, watch YouTubevideos, or read articles to determine if that job you think you might want is something you want to pursue.

To summarize, here’s what you can do:

  • Write out your past skills and experiences
  • Identify your strengths
  • Identify your interests
  • Identify a few paths you want to pursue

If you can do these things, you will be ready to start your job search on the right foot.

Pro Tip: If you really want to do some serious self reflection, here are two resources below that might help

Myers Briggs Test – A test to determine your personality type, and how you best engage and interact with other people

StrengthsFinder – A tool developed by Gallup Consulting to help people understand their unique strengths, and to help them identify opportunities to use these strengths