What are your skill gaps?

As you progress in your career, there are certain things that propel your career forward...and certain things that can hold it back! This post is about what holds you back - and what you can do about it - as it is a universal truth that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

You can define the scope of your career in several ways:

  1. career within your current line of work - "I am a programmer", "I am a construction project manager", "I am a doctor"
  2. within you current industry - "I work in the pharmaceutical industry", "I am a telecom specialist", "I work in logistics"
  3. within your current company - "I have a career with Prudential Insurance", "I work for IBM", "I practice accounting at Price Waterhouse"
  4. your entire life career - This can be almost anything, and will probably be some combination of the above, and can be more personalized. "I help build structures all around my city", "I provide technical programmer and analytical expertise and skills", "I help families maintain good health"

In any one of these, there are things that can hold you back. Let's take a closer look.

WeakestLink

Using the picture as a reference, the links in the chain are like skills and competencies. Our career competencies consist of special skills, like specially designed links in the chain, but also some weak links, some shiny and strong ones, some average ones - and maybe a very weak one. We cannot be strong and shiny in every area; however, we need to have minimum skills in every important area in order for even our very best skills to come through - because a weak link makes the whole chain break.

Here are some steps to analyze your skill set to identify any weak links:

  1. Decide the scope of your career - your company, your line of work or profession, your industry, your entire life.
  2. Within that scope, list the key skills - both hard skills (technical) and soft skills (people) - that are needed in order to be successful in that career.
  3. Now pick out the skills within that list where you are a natural - in which you have exceedingly strong competency.
  4. Next pick the skills on that list where you are not necessarily a natural, but where you have developed strong competency because of training and practice.
  5. Finally, pick those skills from the list where you do not meet the level of competency you think you need.
  6. If you can run this all by a friend or colleague, that would be a huge bonus. They can help with the list of skills and perhaps also offer an objective input on evaluating where you stand. Work evaluations can also be valuable inputs for this.
  7. Try to pick a top three skills to work on - to raise your level of competency from a 3 to a 2.
  8. Develop an action plan for improving skills in at least one of the top three. This could include training, but also could include coaching, injecting a new ritual into your daily routine, increasing your participation in an organization or activity, or a host of other things.
  9. Implement your action plan, and keep a journal.

You are not necessarily going to build skills in every area where you are weak! In fact, that would be counterproductive, as focusing primarily on your weaknesses is not a good idea; focusing on your strengths is much better! However, any position in which you work or to which you aspire will have a certain skill set required, and you need to ensure that your don't fall short simply because you don't have a minimum level of a particular skill set that does not take a great deal of effort! Like the weakest link in the chain, you don't want a manageable weakness to hold you back from getting a chance to use your strongest skills!

Like managing a project, managing your own skill set requires some introspection, careful thought, strategy, and action. With just a little effort, you can align your efforts to maximize your performance and effectiveness. Focus on your strengths...but also be mindful of your weaknesses!

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