Welcome to 2022! Take this opportunity to kickoff the New Year without resolutions and instead start to focus on your strengths.
Welcome to 2022! I can only hope that the new year brings you all the joy your heart can hold. I know that the last two years have been incredibly stressful. Perhaps the last two years have helped you clarify what you want from life. Or you’ve taken the leap to explore experiences that bring you joy. Many people take the time to make resolutions to improve themselves in the new year.
My suggestion to you for 2022: Don’t change.
Rather than focusing on ways you need to change by adding new skills, focus on how you want to be better at what you already do.
I’ve written about the need to set professional development plans that allow you to identify ways to learn, refine and teach other skills. Within this model, you can focus on strengths you already have, identifying ways to improve what you’re already doing well (but perhaps better). I believe we improve our lives when we focus on our strengths, rather than look at our lives from a deficit point of view.
So for the new year, don’t change!
Instead, look at ways to set realistic goals that allow you to improve who you already are.
Focus on Your Strengths
In order to kick-off personal goal-setting, you will need to identify your strengths. Many inventories will tell you how to discover your strengths, but StrengthsFinder by the Gallup Organization is widely available and easy to understand. I’ve also used the DISC Inventory, MBTI, Strength Deployment Inventory and others to learn more about my strengths.
Using Your Strengths, Right Here, Right Now
Regardless of the inventory chosen, or if you used self-reflection questions to determine your strengths, moving forward you will need to know at least one identifiable strength. Using the Management Plan Method, begin by asking yourself three questions:
- Is there a positive part of my strengths I want to learn how to harness?
- What is a positive part of my strengths I want to refine to have a better impact?
- What is a positive part of my strengths I want to teach others about?
Focus on the Here and Now
I believe you don’t need to make a plan that will take weeks or months to put into action. Start with one question listed above and think of what you want to do and how you will measure its success.
For me, when I start the new year I always think of what I can do with my strengths first. As an Influencer style within the DISC Inventory, for instance, I want to motivate others, and act confidently. So my blog articles allows me to utilize this style, trying to learn new ways to influence others in digital formats. I have learned how to harness this strength through my writing, rather than in-person training and advising, which keeps me interested and engaged. Each year I think about how to tap into this Influencer style differently to continue growing and learning.
We can all harness our strengths during the day in the work we are doing. Use a personal inventory to help identify strengths that you can use to tap into a hidden energy source. And this one action may help you work on your personal and professional goals when it feels like you have no energy left to give.
How to Create a Personal Development Plan – What to Learn?
A simple Google search reveals a number of approaches to creating a personal development plan. Many focus on so-called soft skills, like developing empathy and improving time management. These are great personal goals, if you don’t have natural empathetic or time management skills.
I suggest delving a little deeper.
I believe your professional goals and personal goals have areas that overlap. “Career growth tends to focus on tangible performance-related goals, such as raises [and] promotions,” career-change coach Sumayya Essack explains in The Muse. The plan may also emphasize hard skills, which depending on your field could include things like data analysis or proficiency in a certain language or type of software.
I have found that supervisors only ask us to write about our professional skills, since they are the ones on which we are traditionally evaluated on. But in order to advance our careers, we need to learn how to apply these professional skills differently in different situations. Like during a international health crises.
Look at your professional skills as the work required to do your work and your personal skills as the way to improve their impact. This may help you create ways to connect these two spheres of learning and create ownership of your own development. Your personal development is what you bring to the table – it includes your strengths, your experience and what you have learned. And I believe it is an equally important part of our development to focus on.
Personal and Professional Development Skills Exercise
Begin your management plan development by making two lists.
- List Professional Skills Required to Do Your Job
- The first list contains the professional skills you feel are necessary to do your work. Add to the list skills you want to learn professionally but don’t have firmly in your toolbelt. For instance, you could list supervision, policy development and learning assessment techniques.
- List Personal Development Skills Required to Do Your Job (and Your Aspirational Job)
- On your second list, make a list of personal goals you want to work on developing from scratch or to refine as they apply to your work. This could include improved communication, developing empathy, introducing your personal strengths in the office. It can also include strategies to improve how you use your strengths, like learning how to use Woo when working with faculty and senior administrators.
- Compare Your Lists and Look for Overlapping Needs
- Compare your two lists. Look at how you could improve your professional skill set with improved personal skill development. For instance, as a supervisor, what kind of communication do you need to learn to do better? For me, it was learning how to listen more when supervising and not speaking over others I supervised when in staff meetings. Also as a policy developer, learning to empathize with the students impacted by generalized and poorly written policy helped me improve the language of our policies and how to develop contingency plans for students unable to meet the outlined protocols.
Tapping Into the Untapped Potential of Your Strengths
Experience has taught me that you can be a supervisor without being a great communicator. Or write policies that negatively impact the most marginalized of us. But developing personal development skills like communication and empathy, among others, can help you put your strengths to work and help you advance your career.
Or it can help you recognize skills you had previously untapped that allow you to advance in an entirely different career. Focus on your strengths as part of your new years work, and putting in the work to focus on your own professional growth, you may see changes and opportunities that might have missed you otherwise.
Career Coaching for the Mid-Level Career Professional
I have worked with entry-level and mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you as you develop this new skill.
Schedule an introductory meeting so we can discuss a plan that works best for you.