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Individual Career Assignment

The Career Assignment will be an opportunity to apply some strategy principles to your personal career goals. Students in this class typically graduate during the term they are taking the course. Although some students already have jobs, they may be considering a change. And those with jobs that they do not anticipate leaving in the near future often find they are on the "small" end of a merger/acquisition or in some other way decide it is time to make a change during the next couple of years.

To facilitate and encourage students to begin preparing for their next job or career change, sometime will be included in this course. The assignment will be introduced at the first class. The goalis to conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself, the market / job type in which you wish to work and a good assessment of your true capabilities and opportunities for growth.  Being realistic with yourself to set appropriate expectations as you enter any market is just good business sense.  You're a business person!

The paper will be written in a business-appropriate format, using the guide provided and be about 7-10 pages.  In this process, you will employ all the research methods you were taught leading to this course, site appropriately, etc.

The exercise is simple.  What's your strategy to get a job?  In getting there, you will need to use tools we will review in this course and then make it your own to get to the answer, or at least options, answering or conducting the following as this journey starts with You knowing You.  

Part I: The Candidate


  • What advantages do you have that others don't have (for ex, skills, certifications, education, or connections)? What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What personal resources can you access?
  • What do other people (and your boss, in particular) see as your strengths?
  • Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
  • What values do you believe in that others fail to exhibit?
  • Are you part of a network that no one else is involved in? If so, what connections do you have with influential people?


Think about your strengths in relation to the people around you. For ex, if you're a great mathematician and the people around you are also great at math, then this is not likely to be a strength in your current role - it may be a necessity.


  • What tasks do you usually avoid because you don't feel confident doing them?
  • What will the people around you see as your weaknesses?
  • Are you completely confident in your education and skills training? If not, where are you weakest?
  • What are your negative work habits (for ex, are you often late, are you disorganized, do you have a short temper, or are you poor at handling stress)?
  • Do you have personality traits that hold you back in your field? For instance, if you have to conduct meetings on a regular basis, a fear of public speaking would be a major weakness.

Again, consider this from a personal/internal perspective and an external perspective. Do other people see weaknesses that you don't see? Do co-workers consistently outperform you in key areas? Be realistic - it's best to face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.


  • What new technology can help you? Or can you get help from others or from people via the Internet?
  • Is your industry growing? If so, how can you take advantage of the current market?
  • Do you have a network of strategic contacts to help you, or offer good advice?
  • What trends (management or otherwise) do you see in your company, and how can you take advantage of them?
  • Are any of your competitors failing to do something important? If so, can you take advantage of their mistakes?
  • Is there a need in your company or industry that no one is filling?
  • Do your customers or vendors complain about something in your company? If so, could you create an opportunity by offering a solution?

You might find useful opportunities in the following:

  • Networking events, educational classes, or conferences.
  • A colleague going on an extended leave. Could you take on some of this person's projects to gain experience?
  • A new role or project that forces you to learn new skills, like public speaking or international relations.
  • A company expansion or acquisition. Do you have specific skills (like a second language) that could help with the process?

Also, importantly, look at your strengths, and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities - and look at your weaknesses, and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating those weaknesses.


  • What obstacles do you currently face at work?
  • Are any of your colleagues competing with you for projects or roles?
  • Is your job (or the demand for the things you do) changing?
  • Does changing technology threaten your position?
  • Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?
  • Performing this analysis will often provide key information - it can point out what needs to be done and put problems into perspective.


Part II: Market Alignment& Goals

Now that you have analyzed yourself how do you fit the industry or job type you have in mind and who is the actual audience or gatekeepers?  Before the hiring manager sees your resume, what will Human Resources think?  What will their executive assistant think?  What will that recruiter think?  What will that friend, family member, former boss, former colleague or classmate think when you show your resume and ask for help?  Would they want to endorse you, just because you're a good person?  Would they put their name, their reputation, etc. next to yours and the cards you are showing? How are you coming across, whether that's on Facebook, Linked-in, your resume or some other social media community?

We are all more transparent than we believe.  That said, how you see yourself, if you were truly honest, is probably how an employer would see you.  So, is there a good fit?  And do expectations need to be reset so you can position yourself with the right opportunity at the right time and waste less resources going after unattainable goals.  Welcome to being strategic, just about yourself.  In this section, please consider the following:

Identify your target markets: Who needs to know you, your capabilities, and professional goals?

  • This may mean that you focus your efforts on key managers, mentors or human resources staff solely within your organization, or that you broaden your outreach through membership in professional organizations, depending on your goal.
  • Also include the geographic scope of where you want to market yourself, for ex, the Chicagoland area? The Midwest? Nationally? Or internationally? You decide what is appropriate for you.

Your Target Market will be defined by factors such as size, location and the culture of the organization.  You will need to consider the following problems:-

  • Which organizations are highly regarded in my particular profession?
  • Which organizations have cultures that are most compatible with my own values?
  • Which organizations are currently working on problems and issues that are of interest to me and compatible with my skills?

Carefully defining your Target Market increases your odds of more quickly finding an organization in which you will be happy.  Focusing on organizations you have handpicked provides the additional advantage that your authentic interest in these organizations makes you a more appealing candidate.



Tip 1. Keep your Target Market big enough but manageable

Many people initially underestimate the number of targets they need for a successful search.  Data collected indicates that the average person in search talks to 20 to 30 different hiring managers.

If your Target Market is not large enough, you stand a chance of reducing your odds of success.  On the other hand, having a Target Market that is too large can also present problems.  People with hundreds of possibilities often run a search that is too diffuse and difficult to manage.

Tip 2. Where will you be happy working?

In defining your Target Market, ask yourself two problems:

1. What organizations are likely to be interested in someone like me?

2. What organizations am I most interested in joining?

Focusing your efforts on organizations that are most likely to be interested in someone like you increases your odds of landing a job more quickly.  Focusing on organizations you like increases your enthusiasm in the job search and, ultimately, the odds of you having greater satisfaction in your work.

Tip 3. Focus your target list

Once you have defined your Target Market, you need to make a list of the top 10 most desirable targets in that market.  A clearly defined target list focuses your search by helping you to organize your day-to-day activities. 

With a target list, you will always have answers to the problems:

  • What will I do this week?
  • Who will I talk to?
  • What will I talk about?

People effective in their job search are always researching, talking to and talking about their top targets.  They constantly improve and refine their target list, taking out less desirable targets and focusing energy on the most desirable ones

Part III: Marketing Yourself

In marketing, perception is everything.  So, how are you perceived and what steps will you take to come across as professionally as possible.  How will you market yourself?  What steps will you take to achieve your goals?  In this section, use all the knowledge gained from your previous classes and describe how you will market yourself.  Use the following to stimulate your thinking.

 Develop your marketing strategy and activities aimed at your target market.  Have you:

  • Volunteered for cross-functional teams and company-wide task forces?
  • Shared ideas and trend information with others and solicit advice from them?
  • Taken on leadership or committee roles in professional organizations?
  • Attended conferences and continuing education events, even if you have to pay for them?
  • Written articles for companies or professional publications?
  • Presented to peers on topics related to your doing your jobs better?

Define implementation strategies: What have you done, when, what resources might you need, and what might be a few obstacles to overcome?  Be realistic.  Be honest with yourself.

Periodically evaluate marketing efforts and modify them if needed: What's working? What do you need to do differently? Do you need to do more, or scale back your efforts?

After the first draft of your personal marketing plan is committed to writing, discuss it with at least three people you respect such as a mentor, colleague or spouse. Incorporate their feedback and suggestions, and then begin to implement your plan. As you make progress, evaluate your results and revise your plan accordingly.

Perhaps the late Johnny Carson, comedian and long-time host of "The Tonight Show," sums up the benefits of marketing yourself: "Talent alone won't make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time - unless you are ready. The most important problem is - are you ready?"

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