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The Truth and Your Career
Applying truth in your professional career
The truth and managing your career. There are some not-so-obvious layers of meaning that you need to master in order to build a successful career. This concept is particularly important to grasp when you are heading into job search or career change mode.
The most obvious aspect of this theme is your behaviour and actions measured against ethical and legal standards. Not misrepresenting your qualifications. Dealing honestly with customers, suppliers, co-workers and other stakeholders. The importance of this principle is well known and it should be a cornerstone of how you manage your career. Here is a good guideline: Never behave in a way that you wouldn’t want people to find out about later.
The Truth About Your Performance
Which brings us to how we’ll have you performed in past assignments and how well are you performing now. What is the truth about your performance?
This is a very relevant question. You can’t improve unless you understand clearly what you are doing well and what you need to improve upon. You cannot conduct an effective job search without understanding the truth about your performance history. Effective interviewing, and resume writing are predicated on you knowing the truth about your past performance. And, you cannot plan your career with any degree of accuracy if you don’t know how you measure up.
There are two relevant views of your performance: external and internal. The external view is how your performance currently rates, and has rated in the past, in the eyes of the people you work for and with. This might include the objective measures discussed below as well as subjective measures. The internal view is how you feel about your own performance. You may have met external expectations, but not your own, or vice versa. It is vital that you have a clear handle on both.
There are more sides to performance than meets the eye. Achieving the numbers or a deadline is representative of the most common types. However, many a career has been scuttled because of “secondary” performance criteria like how well you work with colleagues. What kinds of performance are we talking about?
What is measurable about the roles you have held? What can you quantify? Like it or not, the people who make hiring and promotion decisions respond first and foremost to objective data. Your performance may have been measured relative to a specific objective or as an improvement or change over previous data. There are a wide variety of measures of course, and within your job history, could be nuggets of information about the impact your work has had. You should take personal ownership for working with the quantifiable measures given to you, creating and tracking measures if they haven’t been identified for you, and recording your performance for future reference.
This is the harder part. You need to get beyond loose answers and understand the subjective sides of performance. The subjective side of your performance can include the level of impact you are having in the organization, how successfully you are fitting-in, the degree to which you exhibit the values of the organization, how effectively you are developing your skills, and how well you work with your boss. Why is subjective performance important? First, understanding the truth about how you are doing beyond the numbers is essential for understanding your job security. Second, you require this information for your professional development and career planning. Third, this information forms the raw material for your behavioural interview question responses. Fourth, the truth about your personal value proposition is often contained in your subjective performance. In my experience with clients, this is both one of the hardest areas to figure out and yet, one of the most rewarding.
One aspect to be aware of is the context of your performance. We all work within varying economic and organizational environments. Meeting your sales objectives when the market is hot is a very different thing than when the market is slow. Understand the contextual truth about how well you have done. You may find some sobering realities to contemplate, or areas of your performance that deserve praise given the challenges you overcame. To see how this theme applies to your resume, please also take a look at Truth-Based Resumes.
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