Take a Career Inventory

I often advise people to take a “skills inventory” from time to time. Knowing what skills you have – both professionally and otherwise – make it easier to spot upcoming opportunities and take advantage of them. But I also feel it’s important to periodically inventory your career.

As you probably know, I make a strong differentiation between a job and a career. Your career relates to the field in which you work, whereas your job is just your current engagement within that field.

A career inventory is a chance to step back and look at your overall field. Ask yourself things like:

  • Do I like where this is going?
  • Does it seem like there are opportunities that will lead to my success (which you’ve defined for yourself, right?)
  • Does the field (regardless of my current job) offer the kind of challenges I like, with the kinds of stresses I’m willing to tolerate?
  • Does the overall shape of the field align with my personal values?

For example, I had a friend who was going into law. In his final year of law school, he started interning pretty heavily, as law students do. That was his first look at actually working in the field, unfortunately. This was a guy who was starting what he hoped would be a big family, and he loved spending time with his young kids. That’s not the life of a new lawyer. So he and his spouse did some soul-searching and decided that the career wasn’t going to fit their personal values. And so he cut his losses (one of Be the Master’s Nine Rules for Life™) and changed careers. Painful, but less painful in the long run than committing to a career he’d be miserable in.

Thing is, career fields change. Take the “server administrator” portion of the information technology field. In the late 1990s to mid-2000s, a server administrator had a fairly straightforward job. The pace of change was very slow, meaning you could hold down a job without having to constantly shift and learn new things. Lots of people entered the field during that period.

But times change. That field is now heavily connected to the fast-changing world of cloud computing, and holding down a job means being a student almost constantly. It’s gone from fairly static to unthinkably dynamic in just about a decade. Lots of people in the field love it, and find it more interesting and fun. Others don’t love it so much, and hate the fact that they always feel “behind,” and that their jobs are shifting to things they never signed up for.

That happens. But if you’ve defined your success, and defined yourself (the first two parts of Be the Master’s “Define The Grind™”), then you’ll be able to look at your current career, see if it still aligns with your personal values, and if it can still take you to your success. If it doesn’t… well, thank your current career for all it’s done for you to date, and start looking for something else that will get you to where you need to be in a way you’re comfortable with.

You can drive your life. You don’t have to just sit on the bus and see where it goes, especially if you don’t like the seats.

About the Author

Don Jones is a well-known technology speaker, author, and practitioner, with dozens of books, years of magazine articles, and hundreds of lectures under his belt. He's also a business leader, and authors books on business, learning, and instructional design at Leanpub.com/u/donjones. "Be the Master," the third edition of Don's book on achieving success and helping others, has been changing the lives of people all over the world.