Jennifer Baker

Work is one of the most significant and time-consuming elements of many people’s lives. It’s also the area where people most often feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled. The average person will spend 40 to 50 years of their life at work. That’s too long to spend in the wrong job.

Continuous professional development is a key requirement for success in any field. It is vital to manage yourself and continuously raise the bar to improve both personal and professional skills.

The majority of people describe their career as “a series of fairly random events”. How then, do some people have really successful and fulfilling careers? The answer is, they take control by:

  • Having a clear insight into their personal goals
  • Understanding their strengths and weaknesses and seeking to grow and develop
  • Understanding what motivates them
  • Finding a range of ways to show how they add value to the organisation
  • Understanding how others perceive them and actively managing these perceptions
  • Learning how to adapt their jobs and keep improving them

In order to determine your drivers and to shape your aspirations it is important to analyse and reflect on your career to date. You can start by creating a career timeline: draw a horizontal line and divide this into intervals appropriate to the length of your working life - for example one, three, five or 10 years. Then note high points above the line and low points below it. Draw a line to join the points together to reflect your career history. Then answer these questions:

  • What trends are apparent?
  • What do you remember most about the high and low points?
  • How have the high and low points affected your career path - ie the choices you have made?
  • What was the most significant point?

As you journey through life you will need to proactively evaluate and adjust your career plans in response to external factors - such as changes in the workplace, a change in your interests or a change in your life circumstances.

Recognising the high and low points will help you examine the choices you made and consider the thought process you went through. You cannot change the past but you can decide how you let it influence and inspire your future.