There comes a time in every career that we need to take a look around and make sure we are not limiting ourselves. Making sure we are making the most of our careers. And making the most of our lives too. For one cannot exist without the other. This post has a few tips & tricks to help insure you don’t paint yourself into a corner. Having a plan is the first step.

What’s wrong with painting oneself into a corner?

Well, almost everyone has done it at one time or another. The problem is that doing so can severely limit your options and force you to make decisions that may not be the best for you and your future.

The value of a plan

If you are young and just getting started this is GREAT. You have time. If you are more established in your career you also still have time. The reality is… no matter what your age or stage in life there is time to think about what you WANT to do, what you CAN do and what you WILL do. You are in charge.

  • You get to decide where you spend your time.
  • Where you will spend your days.
  • What you will work towards.
  • And, How you will invest your most precious asset… your time.

By thinking about your skills, your goals and your big picture plans you can make efforts to avoid painting yourself into a corner.

Don’t forget to include a work – life balance

It is up to you to insure your plan includes a Work-Life Balance. Not doing so happens all the time. The results can be disastrous and lead to many, many regrets. Plan your career wisely. Build in a Work – Life balance and take efforts to stay on track. Yes, there will be diversions. They are bound to happen. However, having a plan in place will help you deal with the diversions and stay on track. Some of these diversions will be happy diversions and as you review and revisit your plans on a regular basis you will need to make adjustments to accommodate them.

For a perspective on Work-Life Balance take a look at new Personal Branding Blog contributor, Nick Inglis’ post.

Take a look today

Sooner rather later is better, but it’s never too late to take a look and get started. What does it mean to take a look? It starts with a quick assessment of your skills. Including what you like to do and what others say you are good at doing. A thorough assessment also includes evaluating what you do NOT like to do. As a sanity check ask a friend to make these same assessments of your skills or to look over your set of attributes you used to describe yourself. If you have a mentor ask them too.

Will you like what you hear? Perhaps not, but hearing controversial statements about what you think are skills from friendly voices is preferred. Using candid feedback from friends, peers and mentors allow you to re-think your skills & likes assessments and then make adjustments to more accurately reflect and align with your big picture plans.

How to get started

One way is to use the old standard of a T-Chart. I recommend two T-Charts for assessing your Skills and your Likes. And an optional T-Chart that aligns your Wants vs. Needs.

  1. Draw a traditional T-Chart with two columns. In one column write Skills and the other write Non-Skills. You can use the Non-Skills column to identify skills you do not have (obviously) and also to identify skills you think you will need to develop. If you need to develop a skill you can add it to your plan (so that you don’t paint yourself into a corner).
  2. Create another T-Chart for Likes and Dislikes. This is a quick way to help you think about what you actually Like… and want to do. And to also evaluate what you do NOT like to do. The purpose is to provide a thumbnail assessment of where your skills are taking you. If you find that the direction your skills are heading now is the time to make an adjustment. Or, you may be ecstatic with the skills you have developed and realize they align perfectly with your plans. If this last scenario is the case then you are doing well. Keep it up.
  3. As a final, yet optional, assessment you should also consider doing a Wants vs. Needs sanity check. You may surprise yourself with what you actually need versus what you thought you wanted. This Wants vs. Needs chart is one that should help you define your Work – Life Balance. As you will see there are many things we think we need, but when evaluated objectively they turn out to be mere wants.

Each of these T-Charts can be both subjective and objective. You can and should be critical on yourself, but not so critical that you stop the process. Again, have a friend, colleague, mentor or even external party evaluate your assessments of your skills, likes and needs. You may not like what you hear, but please be kind to your evaluators. They can be fantastic sounding boards and they are willing to provide candid feedback. Take it for what it’s worth and make adjustments accordingly.

Avoiding the sharp corners

These tips are set out to help you avoid painting yourself into a corner. Having a plan, even an early & rudimentary version, can help you avoid such a fate.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.