The common American perception of career potential is linear – we move “up the ladder” as we get closer to “the top”.
The next professional rung is predictable, and our chance of promotion to it is somewhat predictable, too — as well as the likelihood that some toes (and hopes) will be stepped on before the person currently on that step finally moves up or steps off.
The ladder model is actually a very self-defeatist and outmoded concept. There’s much more potential satisfaction if, instead, we imagine career success as being linked to an ever-expanding “possibility scale”.
Education is one bar on this scale, and experience is another. “Promotability” may be a bar, if that is of interest to you. Personal interests and talents are all bars, too. What your profile looks like depends on your own desires and on your achievements versus desired outcomes. Therefore, no two employee profiles will look the same.
That’s a philosophical mind-shift and here’s the practicality and benefit of adopting it:
- Your greatest competition for any promotion is you. The most successful athletes pay little attention to the competitors immediately to their left or right. Instead, they focus on their own times, their own scores, training to improve personal prowess and expertise. Working on your unique achievement profile will dramatically improve your game and open your eyes to possibilities beyond those on a “next rung.”
- Profile work helps us identify others’ best practices. When did you last intentionally learn from, or borrow from, colleague successes? How did a co-worker craft such an effective presentation, land that big account, or become so adept on office software? When you concentrate on raising education and experience bars, you might open yourself to the idea of free workshops; simply ask others for their insights or advice.
- How can you take advantage of your talent bars? What personal strengths and talents might you introduce to the workplace? Could you offer to write a company blog, organize a charity biking event, or play piano at a holiday party? What’s FUN for you?
- What bars are you missing that equate to missed opportunities? How adept are you with social media, new product development, content creation or staff presentations? What bars should be on your graph that you first omitted?
Creating an achievement profile is an easy way to self-evaluate not only your skills, but also your own satisfaction with your current situation. It focuses what could or should be areas for improvement, and it celebrates accomplishments.
To get the most value out of this exercise, take a picture of your chart and reduce it to whatever size best fits in your wallet and on your desk so that it’s always with you, helping you decide where to invest your time, efforts and your resources.
The ultimate benefit of this exercise becomes self-obvious the more time you invest in raising the bars of your profile — you’re becoming the you who you want to be, and raising your overall life satisfaction bar. And that’s a promotion that benefits you and everyone around you.