DIY Career

HGTV doesn’t need the Kardashians, they have their own version of reality TV – though without the pregnancies or $3M weddings. The DIY (“do it yourself”, for you Home & Garden TV neophytes) shows are everywhere. Build your own fireplace! Stencil your walls! You can do this – and miraculously in only one hour! Who can’t applaud the resourcefulness, confidence and sheer bravado to take on these challenges?

We could use a dose of DIY in our careers. I’m a huge advocate for mentors and having relationships with those who help you – don’t get me wrong. But, there are some things that others can’t do for us – knowing what we want. Deep inside each of us is a dream career that needs to come out. We can’t depend on an organization or a business to define it for us. If you don’t know what you really want, how can you know if the next role is the right one?

The really good organizations have career models and career paths defined to help people know their options and build their capability. This is a huge benefit to the professionals who work there and critical to building the talent the business needs to be successful. But, how can you know what to do with this information if you don’t know what you really want for yourself?

Given what I do, I talk to lots of friends and contacts about making a change in their career over coffee or lunch. In my informal survey, the absolute first comment made upon deciding to make a change is: “I need to get my resume together.” Important, yes, but not yet. (Hopefully, your bio is already current on LinkedIn, – but that is for another day.)

The first step is “what do I want?.” This should define the decisions you make … your next assignment, if you should move to a new organization, start your own business and, definitely, how you build your resume. DIY. First things first.

Knowing what you really want can be hard – at least for me.  It takes time to really think and let your conclusions settle in and see how they feel. It also means not being defined by the (very helpful) structure in the organizations where we work today.

If your goal is to build a business and grow your entrepreneurial skills, then you may be better served moving laterally to the business development team at your current organization than the promotion to the product development team. Or, if true success means being a more involved father to your kids, create a career plan that gets you off of the road 100% of the time. You are the CEO of You – and there is no one else but you who can create your strategy.

DIY-ers know what they want, are brave and resourceful and create their own plan. They get creative when they can’t locate the right product or solution and find a workaround.  And, the best know when to ask for advice or insights from others who have stenciled the walls before you.

The answers are inside of you, not in your company’s career brochure. If you know what you want, you will know how the brochure helps you reach your dreams – or not. If you have internal confidence in what you want first, the rest will follow. First things first.

Patti Johnson is the CEO and founder of PeopleResults. You can follow her @PattiBJohnson or her company @People_Results on Twitter.