“M” is for Mission Statement (Yours)

The week after Christmas last year, a friend and I went on a movie binge. In five days time we saw five movies and no double headers either). Two of the movies, Big Eyes and Wild shared the theme of finding one’s strength, though the main characters took very different routes to do so. The character in Wild started me thinking about personal missions.

wildIn this true story, Cheryl Strayed undertakes a 1200-mile walk along the Pacific Coast Trail. Her “mission” is far greater than to just get from Mexico to Canada; she is on a journey to get her life in order after falling into addiction with the death of her mother. Success for this woman was not finishing the trail; it was rediscovering who she was and transforming her life.

Most of us don’t undertake such monumental journeys for any reason; yet each of us can do better in life and in our careers if we have a framework to help guide our decisions and make us aware of why we do what we do. Companies have mission statements to guide them. Why don’t we?

A mission statement is a clear, concise declaration of what a company wants toth-5 be. If you were a company, what would your mission statement be? How do you intend to be in the world? What is your purpose? How do you want to be perceived?

Two interesting company mission statements I discovered were from Apple (of course) and surprisingly, Jamba Juice. In a montage of Steve Jobs video clips, he th-2said over and over again, “We strive to make the world’s best personal computers.” It’s brief, specific and in terms of guiding decisions I can imagine the C-suite at Apple asking, “But does it help us make the best personal computers?” as they discussed going one direction over another.

Jamba Juice included values in their statement: Jamba! Enriching the daily th-3experience of our customers, our community and ourselves through the life-nourishing qualities of fruits and vegetables.

What does “enriching the daily experience of our customers” mean? Jamba Juice, Inc. included what they call their FIBER Values: Fun, Integrity, Balance, Empowerment and Respect

What makes writing a personal mission statement daunting is that each word is critical and brevity is important. I had little luck in my online search for personal mission statement examples. What might be called a mission statement for a company is often called a personal vision statement when attributed to an individual. Vision statements are often guided by values.

In a 2013 article for Forbes.com, Patrick Hull offers four questions to ask when crafting a mission statement:

  • What do I do?
  • How do I do it?
  • For whom do I do it?
  • What value do I bring?


I suggest adding another question: Why do I do it? In some cases this may be theth-7 only question you need to ask for your personal statement. If your personal mission statement is to help guide your decisions and behaviors in the world, the why is crucial!

Simon Sinek, in his fabulous TED talk on leadership, speaks of “the why” and how leaders who start from “the why” instead of “the what” are more effective. People internalize the why over the what. http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

In my career, I have helped company executives as they struggle to compose their company’s mission statement. It is hard, painstaking, and thoughtful work. It will be no less for you.

th-1My advice is to simply brainstorm some ideas on paper. Ask trusted friends how they would describe you in the world, not in the physical sense but in terms of spirit/energy. Write it all down, and then let it sit. Revisit it in a few days. Revise and let it sit. You will know when you get the right words.

My mission, written some years ago after a Covey workshop, and revisited yearly is not exactly succinct, but it reflects how I want to be at work and in my personal life.th-6“I rejoice in the abundance, potential and opportunities given to me each day. I recognize my power to influence the world around me and will use my skills, talents and gifts to the best of my ability and for the overall good. I understand my behavior, both deliberate and unplanned, impacts others. I will live in a way that helps others recognize their own worth and potential.”

This statement has helped me make life choices and career decisions. Will a proposed project allow me to use my talents for the overall good or is it just good money? My statement lifts me up when things are not going the way I hoped and helps me understand that even when I don’t intend to, my behaviors have an impact on others. Best of all, it reminds me of the abundance in the world.





“L” is for Leadership

(This post is the 12th in my Career Strategies alphabet series)

colorleadYou aspire to be a leader yet how you currently serve your organization is not seen as a “leadership” position. You aspire to be seen as a leader and wonder how to grow a reputation for leadership.

We know the assumption of leadership qualities/skills comes with position titles such as team lead, supervisor, manager, director and the like. While much of the time that assumption is correct, it is not always the case. A person can be in a formal leadership position and still struggle with leadership behaviors. We’ve all had a boss in our past that left us shaking our heads.

How can you develop and flex your leadership skills and have your efforts be noticed? Here are womaleadsix suggestions you can be implement no matter where you are in the company hierarchy. All are in your control and all will get you noticed in a favorable light.

  1. Be Visible. You can’t be noticed if you are never seen. Get rid of the idea that “my good work will speak for itself.” Yes, it might and it might not. Being visible, known by others outside your department, and missed when not there will get you noticed. How to do this?

        Keep your ear to the ground and volunteer to be part of projects, cross-functional teams, and taskforces. Ask if you can help, then pitch in. Yes, you already have a lot on your plate. fullplateThink like it’s Thanksgiving and squeeze on a bit more. Get out of your cube/office/department. Walk around.

Get to know people both up and down the hierarchy. Chat with people. If you see the same people on the elevator each morning, say hello. The more people you know, the wider your visibility.

2.  Be a Motivator. As you take interest in others they will share with you. Cheer them on. Not +feedbackin a Mary Sunshine way, but in that “it’s great you’re in school. Balancing school with work takes real time management” fashion. Ask questions rather than give advice when presented with someone’s problem. When you, as Ken Blanchard says “catch someone doing something right” let them know you noticed. Peers and bosses enjoy getting deserved kudos too.

3.  Delegate for Learning. If you are in a position to delegate to others, delegate so they learn the whole task not just the parts you don’t have time for. Helping others develop and feel ownership for a task is a leadership delegationskill. If they make a mistake, ask questions so they can have the satisfaction of correcting their mistake and do a better job next time.


4.  Walk the Talk. Be true to your values. Part of being seen as a leader is being respected, not through fear but because your words and actions are consistent. Leaders who ascribe to “do as dogexampleI say not as I do” are leaders in name only. Set the example. If you’ve never taken a values survey, go online and find one. They are usually short and eye opening, not in that you have values, but in which ones are most important when push comes to shove.

5.  Communicate, communicate, communicate. The most valued skill in a leader is communication. Be clear and concise in your communication whether written or verbal. Work to know what you are going to say before you say it. This is harder for some than for others. I speak from experience. Use strong words.

communicationDon’t apologize if you have done nothing wrong (ex: I’m sorry but I think there is another way to do this.) Avoid asking for permission when none is needed (ex: We need to look into this more, ok?) and don’t ask a question when you are really making a statement (ex: Don’t you think this is the best solution?” vs. “I think this is the best solution.”)

alternatives6.  Find Alternative Situations to Use/Practice Your Skills. There are places other than work where leadership skills can be honed and tested. Your house of worship, your child’s school, your homeowners association, and your community are always looking for people to step up and help. These are places where your title at work means little. What you bring to the table is what counts. Here you can practice the techniques you may be concerned about “trying out” on your job. As your confidence grows outside of work, it will begin to come to work with you.

This is a short list of ways to increase your leadership skills and reputation. Read everything you can about leadership. Go on-line to read blogs on leadership and you will see a pattern emerging after just a few. I’ve listed one below to get you started. You can also read/listen to books on leadership. Not all are dry tomes. Here is a list of some of my favorites.

  • Stewardship (Block)
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey)
  • Lean In (Sandberg)
  • Primal Leadership (Goleman)
  • Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman (Evans)

Blog:  http://www.aboutleaders.com/Top-10-Leadership-Skills-of-Great-Leaders

“K” is for Knowledge

Knowledge, they say, is power and like power, you can share it, capture it, create it, measure it,knowpower apply it and sadly, hoard it. Knowledge can hurt, heal, horrify, and open a mind to new perspectives. What do you do with your knowledge? What kind of knowledge do you value?

In the early days of the American economy, practical knowledge, known today as tacit knowledge was the name of the game. The work world valued the marriage of labor and raw materials more than the ability to create new knowledge. Tacit knowledge has been called the “know how” kind of knowledge based on common sense, practical action, and intuition. It was passed on through stories and lacehands-on experience from master to apprentice, worker to worker, farmer to his sons, women to girls. Tacit knowledge just was. It wasn’t necessarily written down and how it was carried out could change based on who was carving the wood or making the lace. Tacit knowledge is fluid.

With the rise of industry and larger organizations, explicit knowledge became king. Explicit knowledge moves attention from people to a document approach; it is more academic, more process focused. It is the “know what type of knowledge. Processes were documented, standardized. The individual was taken out of the equation. With the rise of explicit knowledge, tacit knowledge became less valued in the workplace.

What is needed today? Is one kind of knowledge more valuable than the other? In today’s processfast-lane business environment, both tacit and explicit knowledge have critical roles to play. In our information-overloaded world, skills are needed to discern what information is “right” for the task or situation at hand. The “right” information can come from an SOP and it can also come from an employee of long tenure who has what has often been called “institutional knowledge” of what may work in a certain environment.

Explicit knowledge with its grounding in documentation is less vulnerable to being lost. Tacit information, often not expressed openly or recorded, is in danger of being lost just when an organization may need it most. It’s often said that what differentiates one company from another, when raw materials, shipping, and technology resources are virtually the same, is a company’s employees. Employees are the repository of tacit knowledge.

What does this mean? Tacit knowledge is lost every day through downsizing, outsourcing, employeesmergers, terminations and the imminent retirement of 76,000 Baby Boomers. Studies have shown that up to 2/3 of workplace information exchange happens in face-to-face encounters. When people go, what they know, their tacit knowledge goes with them. Harnessing this knowledge is a key to organizational success. For individuals, tapping into the tacit knowledge of a company’s culture can make the difference between success and failure.

The relationship between the practical and the approved corporate process has always involved tension. In the training room, facilitators often here, “Yes, but in the real world…” Can tacit knowledge be converted into explicit knowledge? How does a culture of silos, risk aversion, fear, and competition obstruct the exchange of valuable tacit information which may, in today’sbest practices world, be called “best practices”?

Some companies harvest tacit knowledge through recording best practices and interviewing employees who “have the ability to express the inexpressible”. Others have encouraged the spread of tacit knowledge through the creation of open, trusting environments where knowledge exchange is encouraged and in some cases rewarded as a part of the formal performance appraisal process. (Smith, Elizabeth A., “The Role of Tacit and Explicit Knowledge in the Workplace” Journal of Knowledge Management, http://www.uky.edu/~gmswan3/575/KM_roles.pdf)

How does your workplace manage knowledge? Does it work to capture the rich and varied tacit knowledge employees bring to their work? What do you do with the knowledge you possess? How do you use its power?


“J” is for Job Satisfaction

I can’t get no-oh satisfaction…”

–Mick Jagger

mickAll right, all right…we all know Mick was not singing about job satisfaction, but how many of us have said this under our breath as we leave our desks at the end of the day. What is job satisfaction and how can we get some (or some more)?

It’s no surprise to HR professionals that when people answer surveys about what brings them satisfaction on the job, money is not the #1 satisfier. Money is not even #2. moneyWhat sits in these coveted positions year after year are meaningful work and a good relationship with the boss. (<everydaylife.globalpost.com/relationship-between-job-satisfaction-and-salary>, <humanresources.about.com/employeesatisfaction>, and <smallbusiness.chron.com/factorsaffectingjobsatisfaction>).

That said, these are just two of a number of factors that lead to job satisfaction. Because there are so many variables having an impact on job satisfaction it’s a challenge to measure. The following aspects of work were listed in all three of the articles cited above:

  • Work conditions
  • A sense of job security
  • Advancement opportunities
  • Wages
  • Workload
  • Recognition

Other factors, cited less often, include clarity in communication and chain of command, respect from co-workers, and ability to influence decisions.

A Gallup poll in 2011 said that 87.5% of Americans experience job satisfaction. satisfactionBeing able to use their strengths at work and having a trusting and open work environment were strong positive factors. The poll also showed satisfaction levels rose with age and with education. Salary level also had an effect. Employees making less than $36,000 were most dissatisfied (82%), while those making over $90,000 were satisfied (91.9%). Keep those satisfaction numbers in mind as you read on.

For their State of the American Workforce Report 2013, Gallup surveyed 150,000 full and part-time workers. A full 70% of them said they “hated” their job. This hatejobattitude toward their work, according to Gallup, results in estimated costs of between $450-$500 billion dollars a year in lost productivity, stolen office supplies (and you thought no one noticed that missing stapler) and absenteeism. What happened to the 87.5% who expressed satisfaction? Well, satisfaction with and engagement on the job are two different things. Engagement means feeling connected and committed. American workers overall do not feel that way. Perhaps Frederick Herzberg can help us determine why.

HerzbergFrederick Herzberg (remember that name from your college psych classes?) was an American psychologist who became one of the most influential names in business management. He is most famous for introducing the concept of job enrichment and the Motivator-Hygiene theory. This theory speaks of two dimensions to job satisfaction: hygiene factors and motivators. It is interesting to see, when compared to his theory, where most of our job satisfaction variables (and efforts to increase it) fall.hygiene

What are hygiene factors? Company policies, salary, supervision, interpersonal relations, and working conditions. Hygiene factors do not motivate people. When present, the best they do is minimize dissatisfaction. If they go missing, they cause dissatisfaction.

On the other hand, motivators create satisfaction by fulfilling individual recognitionneeds for meaning and personal growth. Motivators include the work itself, receiving recognition, and having responsibility and a chance for advancement. The disconnect between American worker job satisfaction and engagement is easier to see when you look at it through Herzberg’s lens.

Where do you fall? Are you satisfied but not totally engaged? Are you both satisfied and engaged? Neither? What can you do about your situation should you fall in the 70%? Or maybe you are reading this to get some insight into why your reports perform they way they do. What can be done to increase the presence of motivators?

Some suggestions:

  • Help employees believe what they do is important and meaningful. A manager once told me how he motivated his employees to do the unpleasant job of cleaning his store’s restrooms. He explained how dirty restrooms reflected on the store. If the restrooms were dirty, customers might generalize their disgust to the store’s food products and stop shopping there. In other words, cleaning the restrooms contributed to the bottom line just as fully stocked shelves did. Cleaning the restrooms was important work.
  • People usually don’t get up in the morning and think, “I’m going to do a recogbad job today.” Most employees want to do a good job. Doing a good job is more likely if the employee has ownership of the task and/or receives some sort of recognition for doing a good job. Ken Blanchard in his book The One Minute Manager encouraged readers to “catch employees doing something right” and say thank you for it. A sincere “thank you” costs nothing and can reap much in terms of commitment.
  • Have no way to advance employees up the ladder? Discussions about where they want to go next and helping them prepare through assignments to projects, task forces, allowing them to attend training and other activities can communicate to the employee that he/she is a valuable resource you want to develop,

If it is your job satisfaction that is one the wane, look at the above suggestions and determine how you might have them incorporated into your position. What would it take to increase your satisfaction? awarenessAs the first article in this alphabet series reminded us, awareness is a critical first step. What is it that you need to, as Mick says, “get satisfaction”?











“I” is for Interview

th-3No matter what side of the desk you’re sitting on, an interview is an informational exchange that can change a life. What you say and how you say it is critical. As an interviewer, the questions you ask and the answers you give when asked questions, will determine if the person you are interviewing gets an offer / takes the position. The same applies if you are the candidate being interviewed, The answers you give and the questions you ask will also determine if you get an offer / take the position. An interview is an intense communication situation, even though we all work hard to appear calm and confident during it, no matter what side of the desk we sit on.

Interviews have three phases: pre-interview preparation, the interview itself, and the evaluation/follow up. Professional recruiters know how to prep and what should occur during each of these phases like the back of their hand, but for candidates interviewing for a position or managers responsible for interviewing the candidates who have made it passed the recruiters, what to do and what to expect may not be so well known. Here are some tips and strategies to get what you need from each phase.th-8

Pre-Interview Preparation: For both the candidate and the interviewer, this is a time of investigation and research.

As the candidate, you should research the company online and learn all you can about it. Investigating a company online entails more than reading the “About Us” tab on the company website. Check out everything. Has the company made news recently? Check into their press releases. What are their products and services? Who are their customers? What is their mission statement? Are they domestic or global? Some company websites have information on C-suite execs…learn who they are. Check the company stock prices. Are they having a good/bad year? Why?

Going deeper…do you know the name of the person(s) who is interviewing you? If so,th-12 look at their LinkedIn profile. They have looked at yours. Knowing a bit about your interviewer(s) will not only give you good information, but will help the person seem less of a stranger the day you meet them. You may discover commonalities that will give you topics for small talk.

Finally, research yourself. Re-familiarize yourself with your resume and your LinkedIn th-13profile. We all think we know what’s there, but review this information a few times. Why? Most interviewers ask at least a few behavioral questions. Behavioral questions ask you to recall situations, actions and outcomes that you have experienced in school or on-the-job. Often the question begins as a statement: “Tell me about a time when you… How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?” Spend some time thinking about what the interviewer might ask. Review your resume with an eye to remembering actual situations prior to the interview. This will be of great help if called upon to recall a specific example.

If you are the hiring manager interviewing the candidate, the pre-interview prep period is equally important. If interviewing isn’t part of your daily routine, planning your th-7questions ahead of time is critical. Plan questions that look for “fit” as well as skills and experience. Is the position a pressure-cooker? Ask for job-related examples of when the candidate has been under pressure. Hypothetical questions will get you hypothetical answers. Ask for actual examples. Remember, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Candidates who pass the initial interview with the recruiter will probably be prepared with some questions for you as well. Determine what you will say if asked, for example, to describe the other members of the team. What qualities make a person successful on your team? What is the first priority you’d ask the new hire to tackle? Why do you stay at XYZ? Consider these questions prior to the interview so you are not blindsided or tongue- tied should you be asked.th-1

The Interview: Here you are, face-to-face, in person or on Skype. Candidate or interviewer, everyone is working to be approachable, calm and make a good impression. Candidates, remember the interview starts the moment you give your name to the receptionist. He/she may well be asked for a first impression.

For both interviewer and candidate, the following points are important to remember:

  • Take notes. The information exchanged in an interview is too important for you to rely on memory.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Candidates – Don’t let nerves make you formulate your answer before the entire question has been asked. Interviewers – If you don’t hear an th-20answer to the question you asked, ask again, probe, and follow up.
  • It’s OK to pause and think.
  • Eye contact is important.
  • At the end of the interview, ask about/reveal next steps in the process. This makes everyone’s life between interview and offer/rejection letter easier.

Post-Interview Follow Up and Evaluation: Whew! It’s over. Now both candidate and interviewer are asking themselves how it went. If the interviewer did strong pre-interview planning, he/she will have gone into the interview knowing what they were looking for, asked planned questions to uncover that information, and after reviewing their notes know whether or not they got it.

th-18As the candidate, check your gut on the way out of the building. How did the interaction with the interviewer, in many cases the “boss” of the position, feel? If your gut is saying “no, no, no”, pay attention to that and ask yourself why. Not every position is a good fit. Don’t let big money or a fancy title lure you into a situation where you will be miserable.

If your heart is soaring, pay attention to that as well. Think about what you will say in the thank-you email (yes, email is OK) you will send later that day. If you want the job, say so. Add a short plug about why you would be a good choice. Remember K.I.S.S. Keep it short and simple! If you were savvy enough to ask about next steps at the end of the interview, you will have your after-the-thank you-email next step info. If not, don’t be a pest no matter how eager you are. Give them some time.

Interviews are intense engagements and the above strategies are just the tip of the iceberg. There is an amazing amount of information online about interviewing and beingth-9 interviewed. BrazenCareerist.com is one of my favorite sources for all things career. Go take a look, no matter what side of the desk you are on.

Career Strategies: “H” is for Habits

Career Strategies: “H” is for Habits


fishTwo young fish are swimming along when they meet an older fish swimming in the opposite direction.
“Good morning, boys,” says the older fish. “How’s the water?”
The two younger fish continue swimming and before long one turns to the other and says, “What the heck’s water?”

This, says author Charles Duhigg, is the ubiquity of habit. Habits are the “unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day—until, just by looking at them, they become visible.”

Any time is a great time to take steps to break a poor or begin a new healthy habit and the new year seems to be when many turn attention to “making a fresh start” on some aspect of life.

Habits are powerful things–ask anyone who has tried to break a “bad” one (smoking) or an cakeexpensive one (Starbucks). Pleasurable things can become habits quickly (a TV show) but things that are good for you but not much fun (exercise) seem to take forever to get “ingrained”. It’s said it takes 21-28 days to establish a habit. Why then, after years of running, do I still have to force myself?

What does any of this have to do with building a successful career?

Building good habits at work will give your career a boost and give you an advantage if you suddenly find yourself in transition. Good habits promote productivity and build/maintain professional relationships with others up, down and outside the management hierarchy. valuesShowing up on time and doing what you were hired to do is expected. Good habits that boost your career go beyond expectations.

In an article that ran in Forbes, psychologist Cy Wakeman suggests six healthy habits to strengthen your career:

  • Seek opportunities to grow yourself and your skills
  • Be grateful for feedback
  • Focus on your own contribution (rather than on what co-workers are doing)
  • Be flexible
  • Let results drive your work
  • Keep your emotions on an even keel (limit the drama)


Here are a few more habits I recommend:

Keep up. How? Don’t allow yourself the excuse of being “too busy” to fall behind in terms of trainreadingstaying on top of what is happening in your field. Even if your workload is heavy and constant, make it a habit to read at least one article about your field every week. We all have 15 minutes at some point in the day. Don’t nap on the train, read an article or read an article over lunch. Articles are easy to find online.

havingcoffee Nurture your network. What does this mean? First, determine your network. These could be former co-workers, bosses, students, and 1st connections on LinkedIn. Who has motivated you? Who would you want to contact for job leads or contacts should your current job disappear? Making that call will be much easier if you have kept up with that person(s) over time. A quick call or email to keep in touch is all that is required. Again, we all have 15 minutes and that’s about as long as it takes to touch base with someone. Maybe an article you read would be of interest to them. Pass it along.

Have a plan. This is something many of us put aside, especially if we have a job we like and in which we feel secure. But just as Wakeman advises, “seek opportunities to grow yourself and your skills”, so should we have a plan for what we want to do next or what we would do if something should happen to our current position. A plan for the future should always include resumean updated resume. An updated resume is like having insurance. You don’t want to use it, but if the unexpected strikes, you’re sure glad you had the foresight.

Back in the day (1989), business guru Stephen R. Covey outlined seven habits he had gleaned from researching over 200 years of success literature. His book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was the go-to guide in the 1990s.

7HabitsHis habits have withstood the test of time. If you’re not familiar with them they are:

  • Be Proactive
  • Begin with the End in Mind
  • Put First Things First
  • Think Win/Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the Saw

If you’re not sure what each of these mean, do what I did, and re-read (or read for the first time) the book. Covey wasn’t just talking about habits for a successful career. He was talking about habits for a successful life. Perhaps reading a chapter of this timeless book each week in lieu of an article is a good place to start getting in the habit of keeping up and creating a plan.

Want to learn more about habits themselves? Another book I recommend is the one I quoted at Habitthe top of this post, The Power of Habit: Why We Do Things in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

I have a review of it on my website…take the 15 minutes discussed above and  give my review a read. http://www.jwillinconsulting.com/coach.htm



“G” is for Gap Analysis (Your own)

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “The shoemaker’s children go without shoes.” What does it mean? Usually it refers to the fact that what we do for our company we often do not do for ourselves. For example, my dad was a professional photographer yet photos of me as a child are few and far between. What does the shoemaker story have to do with career strategies? I propose that few of us take advantage of the tools we use in our work to keep our careers on track. For example, have you ever conducted a gap analysis on your career?

gap Gap analysis is a formal study of business performance in terms how the business is doing compared to expectations/potential. The difference between expectations and current performance is the gap. Once identified, the company can take steps to close the gap by better use of its resources, capital and technology. A good gap analysis makes a company look more closely at their current situation, where they want to be (or should already be), and how they got there. Knowing where it needs to be to stay competitive and be successful helps the company focus on steps to get there and examine what has prevented it from getting there to begin with.

Gap analysis can help us do the very same for our careers. Yet we seldom use this diagnostic tool to make sure our careers are on track as the years slide by.

It is usually when something “big” happens (lay-offs, down-sizing, promotion pass-over) that we make the time to step back and say, “Am I using my resources to their best advantage? When was the last time I invested in myself in terms of development? Is my current position positioning me for where I want to be and when I want to be there?”decision

Right now, as you continue to read this article, grab a pen and paper and jot down some thoughts or questions to use as you begin your career gap analysis. Remember this is a gap analysis; you only have to act on it if you want to. What is important here is awareness of where you are right now in your career and if this is where you want to be at this point.

Step 1: Identify Expectations: Take a candid look at your current situation. Is this where you expected to be in your career at your current age and level of experience? What were your expectations of you when you looked down the road 10 years ago or when you graduated from school?

exploreStep 2: Gather Data: If Step 1 revealed a scenario different from current reality, what road did you take to get to where you currently are? What decisions did you make? How did you make those decisions? Be honest. Were you going for the money and if so, why? Were you going for the low hanging fruit in a tough job market? Did your “dream job” present itself and you grabbed the golden ring? How did you get where you currently are in your career?

Ask  yourself if you were to enter the job market right now, how does your experience compare to what is expected in your next level position or in the position you currently hold? This kind of data is rarely gathered until we find ourselves in a job search. Gather data now. What are open positions in other companies looking for? I am not advocating a job search…I am simply recommending that you gather some data. A job exploration, if you will. There is plenty of data out there. Visit the career sites of companies you’d want to work for if you were in a job search. See what’s out there. Visit the SHRM career center, Monster, Career Builder. Do you have what they are looking for?

Step 3: Explore the Causes of Deviation: Are you ahead of the curve or beginning to fall behind? In our current 24/7 workplace it is easy to be so focused on delivering great results thatgather data our own vision of what we want for our career is lost. Just as your company stays on top of what is happening in the marketplace for its products/services, so should you keep an eye on what is happening in your career marketplace. If you see you have fallen behind, examine the causes. Awareness of where you might be behind the curve can help you strategically plot your course to catch up.

 Step 4: Take Steps to Close the Gaps You May Find: You may be shocked to see what recruiters are looking for in your current position or those at the next level. By doing this gap analysis, you can begin to take steps to close your gaps using resources that behindwill also help you in your current job. Does your current position motivate you? Are you learning new things? Are your annual goals tapping into your potential and making you stretch? If not, now is the time to make a strategic plan to get broader experience within your company. What kind of broader experience? Well, what is the marketplace asking for? See how that works?

Whatever you decide to learn more about or ask to be a part of is ultimately going to help you in your current position as well as set you up better for your next even if your next position is within your current company.

So, where do you think you are right now in terms of your own career expectations? Use a personal career gap analysis to become more aware of and informed about your career journey so far, and organize, plan and stay competitive as you move forward.