Many L&D professionals shine at helping others in their career development, but true to the saying, “the cobbler’s children have no shoes,” they tend to neglect their own development. The ultimate captain of your career is you, and Reid Hoffman, cofounder and chairman of LinkedIn, suggests you think of yourself as “an entrepreneur of your career.” Reid recently wrote The Start-Up of You with Ben Casnocha.
Reid and Casnocha’s philosophy for developing your career is through competitive advantage, or what you do better than anyone else. Your competitive advantage is comprised of the interplay between your assets, your aspirations and values, and market realities.
Your assets include your knowledge, skills, professional connections, reputation, personal brand, and strengths (the things that come easy to you). Career coach and author Kathy Caprino believes vigilant gap analysis is the key to success. “Professionals who realize they have vulnerabilities and gaps in their knowledge and ability, and work diligently and committedly to close these gaps, succeed at a much higher level than those who hide their heads in the sand,” Caprino says.
This weekend, conduct a gap analysis of your current skills by assessing where you are and where you strive to be. Determine how you might close the gap through training, work experience or mentoring.
Your aspirations include your deepest wishes, goals and vision for the future. The end of the year is a good time to review your aspirations and adjust your goals for the next year accordingly. Identify other people with aspirations similar to yours and connect with them, either virtually by following them on LinkedIn or reading their blog, or by meeting in person. Caprino also emphasizes the importance of being clear on your aspirations so that “doors will open and new opportunities for your growth will emerge.”
The market is where you have the least amount of control, but ignoring it won’t make it go away. As Reid sums it up, “If you don’t find risk, it will find you.” He suggests that professionals build career resilience by “introducing regular volatility into your career in order to make the inevitable surprises survivable.” Entrepreneurs and freelancers are more familiar with the concept of volatility, however all professionals need to be able to absorb shocks in this increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. Reid recommends joining more groups, taking on side projects and saying “yes” to more opportunities.
Here are more suggestions for career development from The Start-Up of You:
- Update your LinkedIn profile so that your summary statement articulates your competitive advantage. “Because of my [skill/experience/strength], I can do [type of professional work] better than [specific types of other professionals in my industry].”
- Start a personal blog and begin developing a public reputation and portfolio of work that’s not tied to your employer. That way, you’ll have a professional identity that you can carry with you as you shift jobs.
- Schedule three lunch dates in the next few weeks: one with a person a few rungs ahead of you in your industry, one with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while; and one with a person from an adjacent industry whose career you admire.
For further reading:
The Start-Up of You, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
Breakdown, Breakthrough: The Professional Woman’s Guide to Claiming a Life of Passion, Power, and Purpose, Kathy Caprino
So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Cal Newport