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Career Development: Take the Fitness-Tracker Approach!

Woman monitoring her progress on smartwatch

Fitness trackers provide us with constant, real-time data about the health and efficiency of our bodies—distance walked, calories burned, heart rate, sleep quality. But what about tracking the health of our careers? If annual performance reviews are our only source of information, we’re at a big disadvantage.

To make meaningful changes and steady progress toward our career goals, we need ongoing feedback. And yet, many people allow their success to be determined by that once-a-year analysis of their skills.

I recommend following the lead of the fitness tracker. We should try to make professional growth and development an ongoing, every-day task.

Here’s the problem. We can’t expect our managers to take control of our development. Truthfully, they don’t have the time or bandwidth. It’s our responsibility to understand our strengths and weaknesses. To recognize the value we bring to our teams. And if we want to position ourselves for higher levels of leadership, it’s also our responsibility to make the continuous improvements needed for us to advance.

The bottom line? We can’t wait around for our next performance review. We have to take charge and monitor our own career progress. So how can we make that happen?

Unfortunately, we can’t get career progress updates from a digital display on our wrists. We have to stay alert and measure them ourselves. Here are four ways to help you do that.

  1. Maintain a positive outlook.

Make self-reflection a regular part of your day. As you assess your progress, remember to appreciate your accomplishments and position the challenges ahead as opportunities. Approach new tasks with a curious mindset, which will help you naturally become more resourceful. A positive attitude is always a valuable tool for professional development.

  1. Leverage your strengths.

Ask yourself some essential questions to evaluate your progress and focus your future efforts:

  1. What achievements are you most proud of in the last year?

  2. What did you hear, see and feel when you were at your best?

  3. What makes those achievements meaningful to you?

  4. What strengths did you use? Did you uncover any new strengths?

  5. How can you use those strengths going forward?

  6. Who needs to know about your strengths and achievements to benefit your career? Are you communicating with them?

  7. Find your passion.

When you use your strengths and do work that you truly enjoy, you’ll move toward your professional goals at a much faster rate. What do you love to do? What tasks are genuinely fun for you? Have you ever been so focused on your work that time just flew by and you felt like you were “in the zone”?

As you monitor your progress, evaluate whether you are currently involved in projects you are truly passionate about. If you are, then ride the wave! If not, determine what steps you can take to get more of that type of work in the future. Actively seek out projects that match your interests and aptitudes. When you do, your days will be filled with more joy, and your career progress will take a giant leap forward.

  1. Learn from your experiences.

At the end of a project, evaluate what worked—and what didn’t. What did you learn? What would you repeat or do differently next time? What impact did your work have on other people, departments, the organization, or the community? Did you stay too comfortable or did you stretch?

As you apply these techniques to monitor your professional development, take note of your steady progress. Some changes take a long time before they are visible, but it’s important to celebrate your momentum. Congratulate yourself. The way you view your past achievements will help you to envision a more successful future.

Being more deliberate about tracking your development progress—your goals, successes, failures, and roadblocks—will give you the information you need to create a healthy, thriving career.

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