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How to Design a Career that Lasts and Lasts

Written by Jim Keighley on Sept. 28, 2014

A Leadership lesson inspired by The Who… from "Success Story" with lyrics by Pete Townshend

“Saturday night, gotta gig with the band

Playing the electric guitar

Someday I'm gonna make it…”

What's the right next assignment?

This is an age old question for individuals trying to take charge of their development and for leaders responsible for developing their organizations.

Should the next assignment build on strengths or work on flat spots?

For a long time it was common to put people in an area of opportunity to help them work on their flat spots.

More recently, a variety of sources are advocating putting people in roles that build on their strength as they will be happier and more productive. Gallup has an excellent website on this: Gallup Strengths Center.

For most people the strength method is the best.

Without a specific career destination or plan, assigning people to areas of weakness is frustrating, and an overused way to help people improve.

Even those with exceptional potential need to develop strengths.

No clear plan for you yet?

Early on focus on building your personal mastery in an area that sparks personal passion, AND that's essential to the business.

Your mastery becomes the foundation on which a successful career is built.

Your mastery area can be a technology, or software system, work process, anything. The fastest way to build your image, your personal brand equity in the workplace, is to become a master and then share/teach your mastery.

How do you know when you’ve achieved mastery?

Folks at all stages of their career ask me for a checklist so they know when they've become a master.

My response is:

Sorry – I don’t have a checklist.

But I can offer something better – get out your cell phone.

You think it's just a cell phone – but it's also a mastery detector.

See, if you master something – and your phone rings – and the person on the end wants your opinion (and they didn’t call you because the org chart said to) - they called because they heard you were a master.

THEN - and ONLY then are you a MASTER.

We all know people who are really good at something but their interpersonal and/or teaching skills are so poor that it isn’t worth the transaction cost to consult them.

Don't let this be you.

If you aren’t happy with your advancement or compensation...

Ask yourself, "What am I known for"?

When people hear your name is their first reaction: "Who?" or "uh… yeah…"

Or do they say, "Yes! Good idea – I’ll call them!"

If you are getting either of the first two – it's time to listen to what your mastery detector is telling you: Go create an area of personal mastery and passion that's of value to your business.

Then teach it.

And you'll be on your way to have a career that lasts.

“…Gonna be a super-duper-star

Get a flashy car

And a house for my Ma

The big break better happen soon

'Cause I'm pushing twenty-one”

Interested in more ways to develop yourself? Take a look at these popular posts.

Check out the The Career Toolbox page for more practical tips and tools.

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Photo iStock

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