Using Gap Analysis to Set your Career Compass

17 June, 2013

Sometimes I get embarrassed about suggesting this simple tool, but I still find myself coming back to it again and again…

Not that long ago I worked with someone who was very well regarded by her organisation.  She was the “go-to” person, someone who would manage the latest project, take on a new product development plan, sort out a problem. Let’s call her Linda.

Trouble was, Linda was bored. She loved the culture at her organisation and wanted to stay but it wasn’t going to happen unless some significant changes happened.  Because Linda was valued by her employer, she was given the opportunity to complete our five-hour Career Compass program. 

This is my absolute favourite work. During our sessions, we went back to the basics: we assessed Linda’s skills/interests, career values and personality profile.  We looked at current work trends.  And, because this program is personalised, we explored little career offshoots according to Linda’s personal circumstances.

It turned out that Linda wanted to move up to the next level of seniority in her company but had never been successful in winning an internal role. 

There can be a range of reasons for this.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of better managing your work persona so that you come across as “management material” (see Mastering In-House Job Applications).

In this instance, Linda also thought that she was not good at selling herself in interviews/résumés. With no first hand knowledge of how Linda operated in the work environment, I suggested that she conduct a Gap Analysis.

There are three steps involved here. First, I suggested that Linda ask internally for a list of 15 or so “things” that were critical to be successful at the next level up.  Some of these “things” might relate to qualifications, some might be personal attributes, and others might be technical/soft skills.

Linda had an excellent relationship with her Manager two levels up and with a Senior HR Consultant.  So she decided to ask both of them.

Once Linda had her list, she proceeded to Step 2; she asked her two internal sources to weight each item on the list. Items that were critical scored a “10”, less important items received a lesser score.

Linda then asked both people to rate her on each item on the list.  Here, it is important to get the technique correct.  Linda received a low score for areas that she was strong in and a high score for areas where she needed development/improvement.

Step three is to multiply the numbers.  For example, one item “ability to influence others” received a score of 10.  Linda’s personal score in this area was “8” i.e. it was not rated as being one of her strengths.  Multiplying these two numbers gave a total of “80”. 

Once all items were multiplied out, Linda was able to single out the top 3-4 items.  She decided to focus on three significant issues that were clearly holding her back.

What I like about the Gap Analysis as a tool is that it gives a person a positive, practical strategy to achieve the change they desire.

After our last session, Linda walked out with three key tools that would give her a pathway to a plan.  She understood career planning techniques; how to put a personal strategic plan into effect and how to develop a career marketing plan. But I suspect the most important “take-away” was the good ol’ Gap Analysis.

 

aBOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

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