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The 90-Day Career Diet

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison offers a New Year's reboot for your career. First in a series. 

Every year, some 45 million Americans go on a diet hoping to make good on the No. 1 new year’s resolution of losing weight and getting healthier. The new year is also a good time to put your career on a “90-day diet”—a three-month plan to recharge professionally and adopt new lifelong habits.

A holistic “career diet” will improve your chances of sticking with your resolutions well beyond the rest who abandon their good intentions by the second week of February.

Step Two: Set Your Targets
Step Three: Nurture Your Network
Step Four: Refresh Your Resume
Step Five: Prep for the Interview
Step Six: The Face to Face
Step Seven: Hitting the Reset Button

When undertaking any major change, you need to assess where you are now. For dieters that means body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. Careers, too, have their own health statistics which come together in your (CMI) – Career Momentum Index. Here are a few questions to consider for measuring your CMI:

  • Are you engaged in your current job? Do you wake up every morning, ready to go, or do you hit the snooze button--literally and figuratively?
  • Does your boss recognize your contribution? When was the last time your boss acknowledged what you did? How well did you do on your last performance review--have you even had one in the last 12 months?
  • Are you considered indispensable? Are you the go-to person for your boss and the team who does whatever it takes it get things done?
  • When was the last time you were promoted? Two years ago? Five years? Longer?
  • When was the last time you learned something new in your job? Are you stretched and growing, or is it the “same old, same old” every day?

If you’re honest with yourself, the answers to these questions may be quite sobering. Maybe you’ve settled into complacency, which can creep up on you without warning: just like those 15 pounds you gained without really knowing when. Same thing for your career. You’re in the same job, passed over for promotion. You become sluggish and unmotivated.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight and get healthier or your career in shape, the parallels are unmistakable: you need discipline and new habits. And, just like you have a gym membership to get your body into shape, you need a plan and coaching to get your career into shape.

Your Homework: A Good Look in the Mirror

You must be self-aware and gain perspective about yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your skills and experiences, what you’re passionate about, your sense of purpose, what motivates you, and how you can make a greater difference to your current or future employer.

An assessment of who you are and what you bring to your job can be viewed through four lenses: traits, drivers, competencies, and experiences. Here’s a quick look at each and how you can gain deeper insight into who you are and what you do:

Who You Are:

  • Traits: Hard-wired parts of your makeup that are mostly inborn, and define who you are:
    • Are you more assertive or passive?
    • Do you embrace or avoid risk-taking?
    • How confident are you in what you know and what you can do?
  • Drivers: What motivates you, your purpose and passion. Your drivers will tell you what kind of company culture and environment and the type of boss fit you best. For example, are you motivated by:
    • Challenge - overcoming obstacles and taking on tough assignments
    • Power - achieving work-related status and influence, with greater visibility in the organization
    • Independence - taking an entrepreneurial approach, with greater freedom from organizational constraints and pursuing your own vision
    • Collaboration - working interdependently to pursue goals in a group to achieve work-related success

What You Do:

  • Competencies: The skills and abilities you possess that are essential to your success. How would you describe yourself, for example:
    • Resourceful, courageous, innovative, and/or adaptable?
    • Can you manage ambiguity, dealing with the unforeseen and moving forward when the way is not clear?
    • Are you a lifelong learner, who is insatiably curious and open to new situations and challenges.
  • Experience: The story you tell based on what you’ve accomplished. Not only will this help you write a resume, it will also help you become more fluent in communicating your accomplishments.
    • Identify accomplishments in your current job?
    • What results do you achieve or contribute meaningfully to?

Your Stretch Assignment

In addition to self-assessing, you can take the next step into greater self-knowledge by taking a formal assessment. A career coach can administer this to you, or you can find resources online.

Another way is to get 360-degree feedback on how people see you. Ask your current and past bosses, colleagues, and others who work with you. Tell them you want honest input on your strengths and areas where you need development. A good question to ask a former boss is: “If I were working for you now, what position would you see me in?”

Self-Knowledge to Success

With better self-knowledge through honest self-assessment, you’ll be on your way to a getting your career in shape. But don’t mistake the assessment for the end goal: It’s not just the insight you gain, but what you do with it--just like having a gym membership and buying new running shoes won’t guarantee you’ll reach your fitness goals and unless you use them! The key to the 90-Day Career Diet is becoming disciplined and developing new habits that empower you to attain and sustain greater career success.

Check out steps twothree and four of the 90-Day Career Diet. A version of this article appears on Forbes.com.  

 

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