Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series by career consultant Della B. Cauley on how to find your way out a career box.

An acquaintance recently said that in order to know where he wanted to go with his career, he needed to spend time “working on me.” This got me to thinking about two events that helped me shape my own career path.

The first happened while I was attending a class based on Steven Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In that book, habit No. 2 says that we should “begin with the end in mind.”

Profound? I thought so.

For once, I understood the concept of taking time to discover who I was and where I wanted to go. My career path was simply a means for reaching that destination.

The second event occurred during an interview where I was asked if I had a personal guiding principal. “Yes, be true to yourself.”

From early childhood, we are shaped by our parents, our environment and our experiences. But to be true to ourselves, we must also spend time getting to know who we really are, identifying those things, people or events that most shaped your lives.

Here are a few steps to start “working on you:”

1. Create a personal mission statement. It does not have to be complex or profound, but it does need to communicate your purpose and goals. Spend some time alone to conduct an honest, realistic assessment of yourself. Brainstorm to find words that describe your core being. Write down two to three lines that summarize who you are.

This is not the time to reflect on how others see you, because your mission statement is not something created for or by others. It’s intended to help you gain an honest understanding of yourself.

2. Identify your values, your guiding principles; words such as “honesty” or “integrity,” beliefs such as the “Golden Rule.” Write down those that represent your core existence. Consider what is most important to you. Is it money, relationships, security, freedom, creativity, independence, tranquility, helping others, morality/spirituality, knowledge, status or beauty? Write down and prioritize your top 10 values.

3. Assess your current situation by asking yourself these questions:
Does my current career allow me to deliver on my personal mission?
Do the values of my current employer match my own?
Have I compromised my values?
Are the measures for success my own or have I acquiesced to others?
Am I satisfied with myself and my achievements?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it is time to “work on me.”

Defining who you are is a critical first step to making positive career choices that will, in turn, allow you to achieve your ultimate objective. Quiet time gives way to deep thought and reflection. Consider it time well spent when you’re “working on me”.

If you don’t know who you are or where you are going, it is hard to know when you have reached your destination.

Stay tuned for more tips that will help you “Get out Of the Box.”

Della B. Cauley, president of Best Innovative Consulting Inc. in Charlotte, specializes in career counseling and executive coaching. Visit her Web site at www.bestinnovativeconsulting.com.

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