If It Ain’t Broke, Grow It

The old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not apply to business. Complacent businesses quickly fade to obsolescence as competitors pass them by. The same could be said for us at work. If we don’t plan to grow our careers, someone more thoughtful and ambitious will pass us by.

The question “How can we grow as professionals?” remains a strategy question. Companies typically perform a S.W.O.T. analysis to determine a growth strategy. Why can’t we apply this same technique to our own careers?

Strengths: What drives your performance at work? Does your boss know what you do best and how it benefits the company? Are you promoting yourself when it’s appropriate? Most of us receive an annual review. This is a good time to make a case for the ways in which you’re contributing to the company.

Weaknesses: This is a tough one. What areas do you need to improve? Are you struggling with people skills? Organizational skills? If you try, you can overcome your shortcomings. Start with one small weakness and work on fixing it.

Opportunities: What do you see as the next step in your career? How can you build your network in the company? One way is to seek out projects that could expand your skills or ready you for the next level of management. I’ve been able to promote my value and gain experience this way.

Threats: What are some obstacles in the way of your professional growth? Who’s your competition? How might your company or industry change creating challenges to which you’ll have to adapt?

Think about it. Investors pay for growth, not for complacency. In the past five years, Apple shareholders have enjoyed a 300 percent return while Microsoft shareholders earned 0 percent. Today, Apple investors pay 21 times earnings while they pay only 11 times earnings for Microsoft stock. Why? Because of the value of growth, the cost of stagnancy.

Don’t stand idle while your more goal-driven peers think about ways to reinvent themselves and ultimately pass by you.  Dig deep. Consider a plan for professional growth in 2011.

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