To Keep On Growing, Keep Track Of Where You Want To Go
For anyone wishing to continue to progress and develop professionally, self-assessment is not just a one-time activity at the start of your career. It’s an ongoing process that helps you keep on top of where you are now and prepare for what comes next. “You keep changing, you keep acquiring skills and education and experience, so you need another compass reading along the way,” says Barbara Glacel, an executive coach based in Washington, D.C. and Brussels.
A periodic mental check list might include: Which goals have you achieved, and which ones are you working towards next? What makes you most proud about the job you’re doing? Do you need additional training or education in a particular area of expertise? Is it time to consider a change? Is this still the career path that you’d choose all over again?
The answers at each step along the way can help you define your purpose and your career. When a Washington, D.C. lawyer in his 30s was offered a government position, for instance, he had to evaluate whether the lower pay he’d receive as a public servant outweighed his desire to have some say in public policy. Playing a role in government had been his real goal, he decided; the law degree had been the mechanism through which to achieve that. Valuing that goal over his paycheck, he decided to retire from the firm.
COL Robert Morschauser, who has been an Army Officer for twenty-two years, originally planned on joining for a three year stint only. From an early age he knew he wanted to serve his country in some fashion, whether as part of the government, military, or FBI. But as he approached college graduation, he says, “I realized I didn’t have the maturity or the experience that employers were looking for, period.” To attain that experience and maturity, he enrolled in Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
When he emerged as a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant, he found he had gained even more. Call it a purpose. “I didn’t define what that was at the time, I just loved being part of something bigger than myself,” he says. As the clock ran down on the three years he had initially planned on, he evaluated what he wanted to do next and concluded: “I just enjoyed it so much I decided to stay in longer.”
Another few years passed, making him a nine-year veteran, and Morschauser re-visited his career goals again. He spoke to friends who had left the Army for civilian careers. “I’d ask, what’s it like out there?” Morschauser recalls. “And they’d say they missed the camaraderie, serving our nation, working with the great people in the Army.” He agreed he’d miss that, too.
More significant, having benefited from the leaders and mentors who had trained him, Morschauser wanted to give back in turn the knowledge and experience he had gained to the younger Soldiers and more junior Officers coming up behind him. “I asked myself, how can I best do that? By staying in, becoming a battalion commander, mentoring, leading and providing guidance.”
Indeed, over more than twenty years now, Morschauser has built a distinguished career, holding an impressive range of leadership, combat and staff positions; serving in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom; and receiving three Bronze Star Medals, among many other decorations.
And he’s still preparing for future challenges, having recently begun a year-long course in strategic studies at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. “Just because I’ve done so much at the tactical level doesn’t mean I have all the skills and have all I need as I move into operational and strategic levels,” he explains.
As for his current career assessment? “This is a great way to live your life,” he says, “whether it be for three or four years, or like myself for twenty-two years and counting.”