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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Success requires strategic planning

By Vicky Smith
Sun Media

In survey after survey, managers rank high-quality employees as the most important factor ensuring their company's success. The daunting task for managers is retaining these skilled employees once they have been hired.
If your dream is to have the corner office instead of the front desk, columnist Vicky Smith says you need to develop a strategic plan and evaluate your values and skills.

For individuals who look at their job or career management strategically these workplace challenges create excellent opportunities.

Interestingly enough, strategic thinking is rarely applied to job/career management. It is considered good management to research current trends and plan to maximize corporate or personal financial resources to achieve success, but few people apply this logic to ensure their work future.

Two attitudes

There are two attitudes related to what success in the work sphere means to individuals. Finding a good job and keeping it until retirement is one definition of success.

The other is developing a career or profession where you create opportunities to gain more responsibilities and more financial rewards.

Whether it's job security or moving up the corporate ladder to become the chief executive, management of how you get either becomes the acid test of successfully achieving what you want.

Self-assessment is the first step in strategically identifying your strengths and weaknesses, which will lead you to make better decisions to achieve your goals. Understanding your values, strengths, skills and aptitudes is the foundation on which job/career decisions are built.

Self-assessment is important because you will be able to:
  • Identify your skill strengths and find ways to maximize them;
  • Identify your skill gaps and improve them;
  • Communicate more effectively and confidently because you know what you want and you know what you have to offer; and
  • Ensure your marketability by constantly evolving with workplace trends.

    Barbara Moses in The Good News About Careers: How You'll Be Working in the Next Decade states: "Once people gain a sense of their own marketability, they will be more confident in themselves and less anxious about their future."

    Start off by examining your values. The most important factor that influences positive, lasting change is being aware of your main values and ensuring they are met in the decisions you make. If one of your central values is to have a balance between family and work, then choosing to work for an employer who demands excessive overtime would not be a good job choice.

    Examples of work values are: influencing people, knowledge, profit, stability, results, team, etc. Asking questions like:
  • When I am working what do I enjoying doing?
  • What type of people do I want to work with?
  • What is job fulfillment to me?

    The next area to examine is identifying what personality traits are unique to you. This is a tough one because we generally do not consider ourselves different from anyone else. But each one of us has a set of personality traits that when combined are the individualized offering we have to employers -- just like our fingerprints. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What would my best friend say about my personality?
  • If a reference check were done, what would my past employer say my personality strengths were?
  • What are some of the comments others have said about me in my performance reviews or reference letters?

    Once you have identified your unique personality traits, write down or verbalize how you can use these traits to constructively influence a company's profitability or productivity.

    Identify the skills you have developed through work/life experiences. The difference between a personality trait and a skill is that a skill is something you have learned to do well. Complete the same task of articulating how you can add value to a potential employer by using those skills.

    By completing a self-assessment, you have completed an important strategic step in controlling your future. When building a house, creating the architectural plan is a detailed and arduous task. By investing time to complete a thorough self-assessment, you have tackled a critical issue to strategically control your future.

    -- Vicky Smith is owner of Contact Human Resource Group,

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