What do people think of when they hear your name? Do you think their assessment is accurate? Fair? Do you like what they think of you? Now think about what you think of yourself. Do you have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses? If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, you have a lot of work to do. The only way to improve ourselves in any way is to know where we currently are, decide what we don't like about it, and make a plan to change. While this process can be done for any area of your life, let's focus on your professional life.
Where are you? This question can be answered in a few different ways. To get the best view of reality (because, let's face it, we aren't always honest with ourselves), we need to look to a few different sources. Start with yourself. Brainstorm and write down everything you think about yourself. Don't edit anything out. Take a piece of paper and draw a grid with ten boxes in it. In each of these boxes, try to write down ten different observations about yourself. When you are done, arrange these observations into categories. Do you notice a lot of things relating to your ability to meet deadlines? Do you see a pattern emerging related to how you work alongside others? What about your character traits? Each of these will give you clues to the areas that you think you need the most work in.
The next source you will want to consult is the people you interact with on a regular basis. Casually ask coworkers of different levels what they notice about your personality, character, and work habits. Take mental notes and jot them down later. Once you have a good variety of responses, compare those responses to your own list in order to get a sense for the most pressing issues are.
One business expert takes his readers through a process to identify what traits are best focused on. Place each of the qualities mentioned on a scale of one to ten (ten being something you're great at, one being something you do horribly). In most cases, people will only be able to improve themselves by two to three points on the scale. Because you have limited time and resources, it's probably not worth the effort to improve the things that fall near the bottom of the scale. Instead, you should focus on the things that fall around four, five, and six. If you are able to improve these skills and qualities, you will move them up into the excellent and good area of the scale.
In most cases, if you do something poorly, people won't notice how poorly you do it. The difference of a few points on the lower end of the scale doesn't make much of a difference. Likewise, a nine and a ten are hard to differentiate; however, there is a big perceived difference between a four and a six. By focusing on improving your strengths, you will differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack in both your personal and professional lives.
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