How and why you should create a career dashboard

Monitoring how your career is progressing will help you to stay on course.

by Rebecca Alexander
Last Updated: 28 Nov 2016

It's easy to go to work on autopilot. While immediate objectives might change, your job architecture - working hours, reporting lines, team structure, budgets - remains effectively the same. Which means your way of doing things stays largely the same too.

In many ways this is necessary. Constantly changing your methods would be hugely inefficient. Yet as the end of the year approaches, it's a good time to check in on the basics, both to review what's working and to anticipate future needs.

A simple way to do this is to imagine a career dashboard or cockpit. Just like the real thing, your dashboard dials should illuminate the most important factors, in this case in your career, and give an instant reading of what state they're in.

What your dials cover is unique to you. I'd recommend at least five, and no more than 10. Examples could include: energy levels, rate of learning, job satisfaction, team relationships, level of challenge, salary, status/job title and work-life balance.

Try to set aside pride or self-justification when you're doing this exercise, and focus instead on what really makes a difference to your performance and to how you feel at work. For example, is it important that you're having fun, that your earnings are high, that promotion is on the cards? Measure what's most important to you, not what you think should be in your next annual appraisal (although there may be some useful overlap).

Key indicators identified, you can now rate them. Use a 1-10 scale where 1 is 'needs urgent attention' and 10 is 'excellent'. Each area should have two scores - what it is now and what you'd like it to be. Don't assume everything should score 10. Some areas may be fine at a level 5 or 6 - all you need to know is how to maintain it. Make detailed plans of action for the low-scoring areas you want to improve.

Of course, no dashboard is complete without some flashing lights. Figuratively speaking, what's flashing amber on your radar? This is the stuff that might be fine now, but could be an issue later. Are there new projects, strategies, targets or company changes in the pipeline that you could prepare for? For example, perhaps a highlight of your job is its location, but your office is considering a move overseas post-Brexit. What can you put in place now to set you up for such an eventuality?

As well as providing an at-a-glance view of what you need to focus on over the coming months, a good career dashboard reflects what's important to you at work, and offers some control over where you're heading. Refer to it throughout the year, when you need to restore your perspective or to work out where something is amiss.

You wouldn't drive a car without any performance indicators - don't take that same risk with your job.

Rebecca Alexander is an executive coach at The Coaching Studio. Please email comments or questions to rebecca@coaching-studio.co.uk or tweet @_coachingstudio.

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