You are who you are. You grew up in one or several places, speak certain languages, went to certain schools, and worked in a series of jobs. You cannot change the past.
What you can do is write your curriculum vitae (C.V.) or resume in different ways to stress different aspects of your background or experience. Before you get to that, however, the first step is to take an honest look at what you have done so far and tease out what it is that you really know.
Whether you are just starting your career or an experienced manager in your 40s, 50s or 60s, you will have some experience in certain parts of the economy and less in others. Is it in automotive, aerospace, or in travel and tourism? Drilling down further one part of travel and tourism is the hotel business.
In the hotel business, there are then a number of roles such as the front office, food, and beverage, housekeeping, security, etc. At the corporate level, there are also finance, IT, and human resources managers, property development people, and sometimes even a mergers and acquisitions team.
A related question is which companies did you work in as there will be differences in approach and corporate culture in the same industry. This might be related to specific market segments or the location of the head office and if there is a dominant national culture amongst its senior management team.
- Countries, Regions & Languages
Experience also includes which countries you have lived in, the regions you are familiar with and the languages you speak. On a broader level, which cultures do you feel some affinity for or have some understanding of?
The daughter of a diplomat, for example, might have grown up in several different countries including Angola and Morocco., speaks five or six languages fluently but even more importantly has some cultural affinity for Europe and Africa as well as for what it’s like to live in an Islamic society.
Even within the United States, there are important cultural differences between different regions of the country and in some places, such as Miami, speaking fluent Spanish is a real advantage.
Skills go beyond titles or job descriptions to get at what you know how to do. This can have a wide variety of answers such as marketing consumer products to low-income people or managing complex IT projects. The more specific, the better and it is also important to identify what you are best at as well as what you do not do so well.
Diving deeply into your skill set can also take you to the realization that your true calling may lie in so-called soft skills such as client management or even less obvious traits such as attention to detail or empathic ability.
I find that leadership experience and style are also important as there are some people who fit well into specific industries or roles and others who will always struggle. There are literally thousands of books available on leadership style and most of them are valuable.
Probably the most famous one was developed by Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers during the 1940s and 50s and is largely based on the work of Carl Jung. Whatever you use, the key thing is to be aware of how you interact with other people.
Not everyone can be the Captain or the Quarterback and like everything else in this section, the most important idea is to know ourselves as well as we can.
- Crucible moments
The last idea in this list of taking inventory is to use the idea of crucible moments developed by Warren Bennis and Robert Thomson. In interviewing a number of successful business leaders, they found that many could articulate specific influential moments that were “a trial and a test, a point of deep self-reflection that forced them to question who they were and what mattered to them.”
Have you experienced such moments in your own professional or personal life? Looking at such moments might add additional insight into who you are and what you can do.
- Write it down!
Writing down your professional experience can be an extremely valuable exercise and can be done in many ways. If you have the time, writing out the whole story in prose can be enlightening and even cathartic.
In order to stimulate your thinking, you might want to use the personal inventory form below. It allows you to list the places you have worked and specify the combination of space, place, and role you had in that organization.
This and other charts are, by the way, included in the charts tab of this website. You are free to use them!