Planning Your Career to Improve Marketability, Part II

Rapid technological changes, globalization, and evolving work processes highlight the need for new and enhanced skills. To be successful you need to anticipate the requirements of future positions. And if you can keep your skills inventory up-to-date you will always be ready to assume new roles and responsibilities.

Last month?s article provided a framework to identify and inventory your skills. Maintaining a comprehensive inventory of your skills is critical to sustaining your marketability, especially in an industry where your need to change jobs may not be self-initiated. This month I will describe how to work backwards, to reverse engineer a path from your desired position to your current role. In so doing, you will build a road map to navigate your own professional development and career.

Begin With Your Skills Inventory

Last month I introduced a process for conducting an inventory of your skills. Briefly, you begin by listing your skills and rating them on a ?5 to +5 scale for weakness to strength. Then repeat the process for those same skills, this time rating them using the ?5 to +5 scale for how much you enjoy (dislike to liking) applying the skill. This exercise results in data points (coordinates) that you can plot on a skills map.

After you have listed, evaluated, and plotted your skills, you will begin to see those activities that motivate you in a job (skills you like) as well as the ones that turn you off. Understanding this will help you select jobs that you enjoy and therefore jobs at which you will excel.

Conducting an Inventory of a Job?s Skill Requirements

Once you have an inventory of your own skills, you can identify gaps you need to fill to prepare for your dream job. The following is a five-step process to assist you in mapping the skill requirements of potential future positions:

Step 1. Identify the skills required for a position you may want to do two to four jobs from your current role.

This may seem a daunting task, but with a map you won't get lost. In addition to your own assessment of what skills might be required for a position, you need to turn to other sources of information. Contact people currently doing the job, their bosses, and individuals that interact with people in those positions. You can gain valuable insights through informational interviews. Afraid of making cold calls? Next time you are at a meeting, seize the opportunity to ask people familiar with or in the jobs that interest you about the specific skills required for those jobs. These conversations will provide you important information that you can apply in the next two steps.

Step 2. Evaluate the relative importance of the identified skills using the +5 to ?5 scale (+5 very important, -5 not very important).

Your sources may not refer to the position as requiring a skill that isn't very important, but you may discern that particular skills are not in high demand. To illustrate, you may hear that a position requires someone who can be creative but it is not an important or essential skill. In your discussion with the source, get a gauge on the scale of 0 to ?5 approximately where it would fall.

Step 3. Evaluate the skills in terms of how frequently they are used. Again, use a +5 to ?5 scale. (+5 skill used a lot, -5 skill used little).

Step 4. Put your evaluations into a spreadsheet or table. Combine the data from steps 2 and 3 to create skill coordinates.

Here is an example of the chart format to capture the required skills of the potential position.

Sample Table for Recording Skill Assessment



Importance Rating

(+5 to -5)

Frequency Rating

(+5 to -5)

Skill Coordinates





5, 4





5, -4





3, 5





-3, 5

Step 5. Plot the coordinates on a graph.

This is similar to the process used earlier for mapping your own skills inventory. But after you plot the skill requirements for several potential positions, you will begin to see which skills need to be strengths as well as those that are applied frequently.

Putting It All Together

The plotted graph provides you a visual tool that models the skill areas at which you excel and those that require further development. Most likely you would avoid pursing positions that require skills that you dislike, especially if your skills in the area are weak. Now that you have a graph of required skills for future positions, you can overlay your skills inventory to see if there is a gap between the data points.

You can use this overlay to identify jobs that you may want to pursue: positions where your skills in the top right side quadrant (Important/like and Important/frequent) match those of the desired positions. You will need to develop skills in the bottom right quadrant (less important/like and less important/frequent) to improve your marketability for positions with those skill requirements. For skills that fall in the bottom left quadrant (weakness/dislike and weakness/frequent) you must decide if you want to develop skills for a position you might not enjoy.

Reverse Engineering Your Career Path

You have just reverse engineered a career path, starting from a job two to four moves from your current position and identifying what jobs are between your current role and that future job. You can now map skill requirements of each of the positions along the way and identify what skills you need to develop to improve your marketability (i.e., to acquire skills that are frequently required and that are currently weaknesses for you).

Career Path Map

In the career map, you can see that job B3 offers multiple career paths leading to your desired future job D, whereas job B2 only affords you one path. Therefore, you most likely would want to focus your near-term development and networking efforts toward your skills gap with job B3.

Skill Development and Marketability

Knowing the most frequently required skills for future positions and the gap between those and your current skills allows you to focus your professional development. Corporations spend money on developing their employees, but this approach gives you a head start to identify specific skill gaps that you need to address to make yourself attractive and qualified for the positions of the future. And that gives you the Insider?s Edge.

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