As discussed in the first post, the word “coach” means, both literally and figuratively, a mechanism designed to help us move from where we are to where we want to go. Whether your coach comes in the form of a horse-drawn carriage, an athletic trainer working to create a champion, or someone hired to help you achieve life balance and success, you must first identify your starting point, the desired destination, and the resources at your disposal. These resources include your attitude, your aptitude, and your opportunities. In the last “ABC’s of Coaching” entry titled “A is for Attitude” we explored the attitude with which we approach our journey and how it can lead us toward our objective or create obstacles that slow us down.
One way to understand and shift our attitude is by identifying and honoring our values. Whereas ATTITUDE influences how you approach work, APTITUDE affects your ability to actually accomplish a job. Just as your perspective and values make up your attitude, aptitude is a blend of skills and interests. Aptitude does not refer only to your proficiency at a task, but also to your ability to learn and acquire new talents. Your capacity to succeed and grow is directly related to your enjoyment of, and satisfaction in the work.
When you look over your résumé or contemplate your past job responsibilities, notice the things that you have done well and the contributions that you have made. When you review that list of accomplishments, which ones excite you? Which experiences do you want to build upon, and which are you ready to leave behind? For example, I have worked as a receptionist and office manager. I developed a superior aptitude for taking accurate messages, for maintaining a healthy supply of post-it notes, and for giving “good phone.” If I were to look for a job with these similar responsibilities I would be a top-notch candidate, but that is no longer where my interests lie. It is not because it is not a valuable and challenging job; in fact, the receptionist is often the glue that holds an organization together and serves as the public face of private corporations. But I have been there and done that, and now I want to develop and apply new skills. Despite my aptitude for these responsibilities, I no longer have the mental capacity to fulfill that role. I have to honor my value of wanting to experience new and different challenges. (Notice the influence that attitude has on aptitude.)
When assessing your fit for current and future job opportunities, you need to gauge your ability to fulfill the job requirements AND your desire to do those jobs. You might be highly skilled at filing, sorting, and systemizing but not really enjoy it. If that is the case, what tasks can you do and talents can you apply that are more stimulating? In addition to what you can and want to do, you also need to take into account the environment in which you do them. Are you more comfortable and productive in a corporate culture that is highly structured and hierarchical, or are you more likely to excel in a laid-back and playful atmosphere that requires imagination and flexibility? When you review your past responsibilities, remember to identify the elements that contributed to your success, and use that information as a guide for your future pursuits.
The following is a short list of skills. My suggestion is to go through the list twice. First, rate them at your current level of proficiency: 1= low, 2= medium, 3=high. Second, rate the level of enjoyment and satisfaction. For example, I would say that I have a ‘3’ (high) level of skill in budgeting, but my pleasure in doing it is ‘1’ (low). When I assess a job, I will take into account the fact that I will not be happy if a large percentage of my time will be spent on finances. That being said, as I move up the career ladder, whether as an entrepreneur or as part of an organization, my fiscal responsibility will likely increase. For me to create a positive work experience, I will have to make sure that the other skills which rated high on my interest scale (such as coaching, collaborating, and initiating) are being fulfilled.
Before we conclude, let us not forget the skills in which you have a high level of interest but a low level of talent. You want to make sure that you have an opportunity to develop and apply those abilities as well. If you are interested in leading and supervising but do not yet have significant experience or aptitude in those areas, seek out ways to develop those skills. Take professional-development classes, find a mentor in the office, or volunteer as a team-leader for some nonprofit who will be grateful to provide you on-the-job training. It is up to you to create the career that you want and to navigate the terrain on which you are traveling.
As you embark on this journey called career management, you need to know what you have packed for the ride. You bring your experience, attitude, skills, interests, and vision for the future. Along the road you will pick up more resources and might need to leave others behind to make room for what you really want. By being clear on your goals and the capital you have at your disposal, you will be able to create and seize opportunities that help to move you forward — opportunities that we will explore next time.
– Stacey Zackin, theCoach4you