Many professionals have seen their careers upended by the COVID-19 situation, and are re-questioning their own career profiles. While establishing a clear understanding of yourself can be a tricky existential question, determining it remains crucial as a basis for any future personal or career plan.
If you have been in the workforce for some time, relooking at yourself and updating your career roadmap can help you reaffirm your professional direction, and decide on potential tweaks or pivots, as your life and career stages change.
Grab your laptop or a pen and paper, find a quiet corner, and spend some time to think and ask yourself four overarching questions.
1. Who do I want to be, and why?
Crystallising the purpose and intent of your professional career is the first and also, the hardest step. When you think of your career or even your life, what are the images that surface in your mind? Why do you do what you do? What drove you in deciding your past career moves and your daily activities? Think back to what made you choose your current career path – has it been all you thought it was supposed to be? What was the most defining moment of your career so far? Have there been any changes to your perspective and motivations? Do you still look forward to working at your current role, company, or industry?
When answering these questions, don’t restrict yourself to your professional work – think about your interests and activities outside of work as well. Often, the meaning we find in our after-work hobbies can be translated to our jobs and workplaces too. For instance, if you enjoy baking and hosting parties for family and friends, why not consider being part of or setting up an internal employee engagement committee to better connect your colleagues and foster a friendly company culture?
2. Where am I now?
Taking stock of your current reality sets a foundation for you to work on. Look back at your career and update yourself (and your CVs and social media profiles) on your strengths, weaknesses, skillsets, certifications, values, likes, and dislikes. It is important to realise that our perceptions of reality might differ from others. Tackle this issue by penning down what you think comes natural and effortless to you, and seeking the honest opinion of trusted family members, friends, colleagues, or your professional recruitment consultant. Again, don’t restrict yourself to work-based evaluations; commitments outside of work can provide you with valuable transferable skills too.
3. Where do I want to be, and by when?
Once you have a clearer idea of your career goals and current situation, work out your desired end state and timeline to get there. Think about how much longer you can realistically work for, and calculate backwards to figure out the amount of time you have left. Be open to exploring options that might not directly lead you towards your career goal, for example a horizontal career move or a change in location. The experience you gain through such roles sometimes places you in a better position for future progressions.
What if you remain unsure of your desired destination? Don’t worry. It may be counterproductive to plan too far ahead for your career path – not only does it restrict you from being flexible and adaptable to different circumstances, the vast uncertainty of your future might cause you to freeze up in fear. Instead, steadily and methodically plan your career moves one step at a time.
4. How do I get there?
The final stage is to set out your own career journey plan to get to your desired end state. What are the practical actions you can take now to head towards your imagined finish line? We suggest first identifying the areas you need to develop and upskill yourself, and listing out the resources you have on hand to evaluate if any are suitable to be tapped on. During times of crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak, your government may have specially ramped up upskilling and career opportunities to bolster faltering economies – make sure you are fully aware of any such special schemes and utilise those that are relevant.
Before you go
These four macro questions seek to help you rediscover yourself and your career journey. Even after completing this exercise, take time to regularly reflect on your progress and career to further tweak and perfect your plans. Lastly, keep in mind that it is impossible to always be doing purposeful work that leads to your planned career goals. Studies have shown that we experience meaning in our work through brief, quick moments, so don’t be overly hard on yourself if some days just seem to lead nowhere. Take a breather and remember to have fun while you traverse your career journey.
Check out our career advice hub for other insights on managing your career effectively.