?Are you at a crossroad in your career? Trying to determine your next move in the midst of the current disruptions to the economy and to daily life? Or exploring what your best path is to work that you'll love, given your particular set of skills, interests, and passions?
There's a simple but profound exercise that will help you figure out your next best move, no matter where you are in your career journey. It was devised by Wendy Capland, executive coach to such companies as IBM and Bank of America. Capland is the author of the bestselling book Your Next Bold Move, and she's also my coach. For the past several years, she's been coaching me and I've been writing about it.
This exercise is a great way to identify and develop your brand as an executive, but perhaps it's even more valuable as a way to figure out your next career goal or direction should be. Here's how it works.
1. Ask yourself what love about your work.
You will need a pen and paper (or journal) for the first steps of this exercise. Begin by asking yourself: What's important to you about the work you do?
Chances are, especially if you're an entrepreneur, you're motivated by more than just a paycheck. You may love your work because it lets you help people solve difficult problems. Or, it may be that it allows you to travel and see the world, or that you can make your own schedule. One of Capland's clients who works in a highly technical area says creating clear communications around complex technology so people can better understand it is important to him. There are countless right answers to this question. Take a few minutes and write down as many answers as feel true to you, and anything else that this question may inspire.
"The more you can be introspective and make as long a list as possible -- at a minimum, 20 items -- the more it will help you answer the question: What should I be doing?" Capland explains.
2. Ask yourself what's emerging for you now in your work.
What themes do you return to again and again? Do you keep coming back to a particular idea, or a particular problem that needs solving? What do you wish you could do that you haven't been able to do so far? Again, take a few minutes and write down your answer or answers, and anything else that comes up for you.
2. Name your own strengths.
Next, spend a little time writing down what you think your greatest strengths are, both things you believe yourself to be good at and things others believe that you're good at. Make a list of five to seven strengths you know you have.
3. Ask 8 to 10 people what your greatest strengths are.
Capland recommends that you interview these people in person or over the phone, but if that's not feasible, email works too. Ask each of these people to name what they see as your top five strengths. Your 8 to 10 interviewees should include past and present colleagues and people you've worked for as well as people you've managed. Definitely include your business partner, if you have one, or your current boss, if you have one of those. And include a family member or close friend as well. That will give you an additional perspective that's different from what your colleagues see.
Don't let anyone use this interview to give you criticism disguised as praise, for example, "You have such a great personality, if only you were more outgoing." If you hear something like this, thank the person politely and remind him or her that for the purposes of this interview, you only want to hear about your greatest strengths as they exist right now.
Write down all the strengths your interviewees tell you. It's important to write everything down, Capland says, because often we have trouble hearing or remembering the good things people say about us.
4. Now put it all together.
You should now have a bunch of notes and quite a few lists of your greatest strengths. Read through all those notes, including your answers to the two questions in Step 1. Look for patterns to emerge. "I have people take all of this together and we circle the things that are common among these four pieces," she says. "We also look for things that tie together and see if it means anything."
Don't worry -- you definitely will find patterns and commonalities. Capland says no one who's ever done this exercise has failed to find them. Those patterns and commonalities will help you determine what your next move should be, and what existing strengths will help you get there.