The No. 1 Career Mistake Capable People Make
I recently reviewed a resume for a colleague who was trying to define a clearer career strategy. She has terrific experience. And yet, as I looked through it I could see the problem she was concerned about: she had done so many good things in so many different fields it was hard to know what was distinctive about her.
As we talked it became clear the resume was only the symptom of a deeper issue. In an attempt to be useful and adaptable she has said yes to too many good projects and opportunities. She has ended up feeling overworked and underutilized. It is easy to see how people end up in her situation:
Step 1: Capable people are driven to achieve.
Step 2: Other people see they are capable and give them assignments.
Step 3: Capable people gain a reputation as "go to" people. They become "good old [insert name] who is always there when you need him." There is lots right with this, unless or until...
Step 4: Capable people end up doing lots of projects well but are distracted from what would otherwise be their highest point of contribution which I define as the intersection of talent, passion and market (see more on this in the Harvard Business Review article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less). Then, both the company and the employee lose out.
When this happens, some of the responsibility lies with out-of-touch managers who are too busy or distracted to notice the very best use of their people. But some of the responsibility lies with us. Perhaps we need to be more deliberate and discerning in navigating our own careers.
In the conversation above, we spent some time to identify my colleague's Highest Point of Contribution and develop a plan of action for a more focused career strategy.
We followed a simple process similar to one I write about here: If You Don’t Design Your Career, Someone Else Will. My friend is not alone. Indeed, in coaching and teaching managers and executives around the world it strikes...