Finding Your Career Path

Contributed by Angee Linsey

As a recruiter, I ask every candidate what would be their ideal job. Whether you are the person who has always had a clear career path, or one who is not sure of the answer to this question, there are a couple of ways to help get you (or keep you) on the path that’s right for you.

When considering a job move—by choice or by chance—assess who you are, your skills and competencies, and what kind of environment would bring forth your best work. You need to conduct what’s called a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis for yourself, as follows:
Strengths: What makes you good at what you do? Think beyond your writing skills or ability to work on a team. Dig deeper. Ask: What type of writing is your best? Why do people want you on their team?

Weaknesses: Assess yourself honestly. Consider whatever gaps you may have in your experience. Think about areas where you need to improve. If you have discovered that writing speeches for executives is not your strongest skill, then perhaps you should steer clear of executive communications roles, or else take steps to improve.
Opportunities: What opportunities play to your strengths? Are you best when leading a team through challenging crisis communications? Do you prefer to be behind the scenes as a writer and editor? Perhaps you are the quintessential “chief of staff,” able to guide that executive through every speaking event and media interview. Regardless of the answer, do some research on job descriptions, companies and their organizational structure to see what fits your strong suit.
Threats: What are your limitations? You may be restricted to a specific geographical area. You may not have the preferred educational background for specific roles. Or during this tough economy, a threat may be that there are a large number of quality people competing for a small number of jobs.
After this very analytical SWOT analysis, it’s time to create a vision of your ideal next job. For many, this is a powerful exercise and is most effective when written.

Vision Exercise

Write positive present-tense descriptions of your ideal job as if you were already there. (Do not think about a specific job you want. Instead, imagine every element that makes your job ideal). For example:

  • What does your work space look like?
  • What kind of people are you working with?
  • What kind of work are you doing (from general to specific)?
  • How much do you travel for work?
  • What is your income?
  • How much vacation do you get?
  • What kind of organization(s) are you working for or with?
  • How does your work affect others?
  • Are you working alone or as part of a team?
  • What type of team?

Examples of such vision statements include:

I am working with small teams comprised of smart, motivated people.
I am writing daily and continuously improving my writing skills through quality editorial advice.
I am working with an organization that is recognized as socially responsible.

Once you’ve completed the SWOT analysis and vision exercise, you are more likely able to articulate that ideal next job—and more important: you are more likely to get there.
Angee Linsey is the managing director of Linsey Careers, a search firm specialising in finding the very best corporate communication, public relations and marketing talent for companies nationwide.