Taking Charge of Your Career: A 5-Step Process to Personal and Professional SuccessJun 22, 2022
In our Monday Motivation earlier this week and in our Leadership Lesson video released this week on YouTube (you can subscribe @LHLNetwork and not miss a new video), I talk about how important it is to own your own professional development. Too many of us rely on or think that it is up to the department or organization for which we work. If that is your strategy, it’s a surefire way to never achieve your goals. I also mentioned the fact that fewer and fewer companies in the private sector and organizations in the public sector are providing the personal and professional development skills development that will lead to success. I call these soft skills. While employers of all kinds still focus on making sure their employees have the hard skills to execute the job, it is these soft skills that often leave employees with the skills’ gaps that prevent them from advancing. Fortunately, those skills are the easiest to develop on your own, if you honestly and accurately assess where you are at, and then take proactive steps to improve the skills needed to be successful in your chosen career.
Step 1: Take Inventory of Your Current Skills: I call this your GPS moment. Just as in a car when taking a trip, you have to input two pieces of data to reach your desired destination – where you currently are and where you want to go. So, I would recommend doing this by taking out your leadership journal (or purchase one) and first writing down your career goals for 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. For each milestone you want to achieve, list the skills that a successful person you know in that position has. Then, and this is where it gets really tough, list the skills you currently have that both match that goal and the ones you do NOT have that you will need to develop to be successful. In law enforcement, a first goal is to successfully get promoted to the next level after patrol officer. Look at the hard and soft skills that your department requires for a successful candidate, find one that you admire, and start working on developing your skills.
Step 2: Understand What Soft Skills Are: Soft skills are those personal qualities that begin to separate leaders into different categories. The most important to develop is your emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman wrote about this in his groundbreaking, best seller of the same name, but the book of his that really drills it down for me is Primal Leadership. The five components of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-control, other awareness, situational control, and empathy. There are plenty of assessments online that you can take to see where you are in each area. Everyone has a score and everyone can improve their scores in these key areas, but not everyone does. Those who truly focus on finding ways to be better in each area, will achieve the greatest success both in their personal life and their professional life.
Step 3: Start Reading and Create Routines: Even before you go find a mentor, I always recommend that you start working on developing your own intellectual capital. We offer a list of recommended reading on our website at www.lhln.org under resources. There is even a link to our Bookshop where you can find these books and see them organized by Leading Yourself, Leading Others, and Leading the Organization. These are the three key areas that I wrote about in my book, Essential Leadership Lessons from the Thin Blue Line. Book reading is not the only way to build your leadership skills and intellectual capital. Listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and take classes from top leadership influencers that will help you learn from their scars that will hopefully help you avoid them in your career growth and development. Make this and other aspects of your skills development a routine – daily. In doing so, you chip away at your goals consistently.
Step 4: Find A Mentor: You will maximize your chances at success if you also seek to find someone who can mentor and/or coach you through your development. This may be someone within or someone in another department who understands exactly what it will take for you to be successful in achieving your career goals. Take your Step 1 list to them and ask them to review it and to honestly evaluate where they see you at the current time. Establish a routine where you get with this mentor either virtually or in person to discuss and review what you are learning on your own. Mentors can be within your profession or from other professions from which you can learn universal skills that you can begin to try out daily in your personal and professional life. Soft skills are exactly the skills that separate the significant leaders from the survivalist leaders.
Step 5: Self-Reflect: Take the time, periodically, to revisit your original list and reflect on what you feel you’ve improved and where you may need to get better. Periodic self-reflection will offer you the chance to update the skills you need and those you’ve mastered. Celebrate your successes in whatever way makes sense, but always recommit to becoming even better by working on new skills for the next career milestone you wish to achieve. I always recommend selecting 2-3 personal and 2-3 professional skills that you want to improve and keep score. Be intentional in developing a ritual and routine to make sure you are doing something toward your skill development in each of these areas and track it on a chart in your leadership journal. Keeping score means evaluating whether you achieved your daily goal in that area and if you achieved greater success in that area on that day. What I like to call +1 leadership. Did you get 1% better in that skill that day, week, month?
Hopefully, these 5 steps will give you some ideas on how to begin to take control of your own professional and personal development. Ultimately, if you really take a step back and look at the true top 1%, often, they have achieved success in their chosen field because they focused on creating a daily ritual and routine around what skills they need to get better at to achieve their goals. Whether this is a tech exec, professional athlete, or chief executive, they likely took their natural skills and developed the routines and rituals they needed to become THE best in their chosen area. So, the biggest hinderance in you achieving your career success is you. Start by learning to lead yourself. Evaluate where you are, develop routines that work for you and be consistent by holding yourself accountable.
One way you can grow you leadership is by taking one of our life-changing classes. Why are they life-changing? Well, because we will show you specifically how to start doing these things that will help you lead yourself and become your best leader possible. Learn more at www.lhln.org where you can register for a class, or request to host one.
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