Skip to main content
power points

Are you the same person you were 10 years ago? The answer, undoubtedly, is no.

Will you be the same person you are now in 10 years’ time? Again, presumably no.

Exactly how you will change may seem uncertain – out of your hands. But it’s not. Events and other people will have a role – assignments you are given being a notable example – but organizational psychologist Benjamin Hardy says the changes over time in your personality and skills are not out of your control. In Harvard Business Review, he offers three steps to help you craft your future self:

  • Distinguish your former, current and future selves: Today’s self can overwhelm attempts to imagine the future. It is who we are, and seems like who we always will be. We cling to it. Labels like “I’m an introvert” or “I’m a people person” leave little wiggle room for imagining change and growth. “When you assume a label about yourself, you stop seeing alternatives,” he warns. Looking back reminds you that you have not always been the same person – you don’t do things the same way you once did; you no longer want what you once wanted – and opens you to change.
  • Imagine your desired future self: Shaping your future self will require deliberate practice and effort, research shows, and so you need a clear goal to help that process of transformation. “Your behaviour in the present is largely shaped by your view of your own future. If your future is clear, exciting and something you believe you can create, then your behaviour in the present will reflect that,” he says. So who is your future self? Start figuring it out, with the help of journaling, a technique he recommends.
  • Change your identity narrative: Identity is extremely powerful – even more so than personality, driving behaviours. “If your identity is rooted in your past and present alone, that fixed mindset can make personality feel permanent. But if you focus on envisioning your future self, instead of fixating on your current self, it becomes possible to change your identity narrative,” he says. Don’t just wrestle with this new identity in your mind. Share it with other people, humbly acknowledging how you intend to change.

“Telling people who you want to be is incredibly powerful because it will compel you to make your behaviour consistent with your new story,” he says.

Consultant Art Petty offers some related advice in urging you to uncover your professional value proposition. If you want people to invest in you, he says on his blog you must move beyond the weasel words and clichés on your resume and design a professional value proposition that is authentically you and meaningfully different from everyone else.

Start by reaching out to former colleagues, asking them to share their thoughts on two questions:

  1. When we worked together, what was it you saw that I did particularly well?
  2. When we worked together, how did I affect you?

The answers might surprise or even shock you. The revelations will not be a career plan, but clues, which you will have to take further by answering these three questions:

If you were to pick one moment in your career that defines you, what would it be? Why?

Think about the situations where you’ve been at your absolute best. What were those? What role did you play? How did you affect the outcomes?

What are the situations in your work when you achieve what you might describe as a state of flow where everything around you disappears, and you are singularly focused on your work?

The themes that will emerge from your answers and your former colleagues’ will help you to define your personal value proposition.

Quick hits

  • The average tenure of an employee at an organization is 4.1 years, according to a recent U.S. survey. After two decades in the HR trenches, consultant Tim Sackett argues that’s unfortunate because people who stay long term with a company tend to make more money over their careers; have the highest level of promotion; and gain the most career satisfaction.
  • Content strategist Danielle Page found her requests were treated with more respect when instead of somewhat meekly e-mailing or saying “just checking in” or “just following up” she replaced the word “just” with “I”: “I’m checking in” or “I’m following up.”
  • People are more successful if they view business as a playground where the game is to make others happy rather than a battlefield swarming with people they must thwart, consultant Roy H. Williams says.
  • Avoid terse yes and no answers in a job interview, advises leadership coach Paulette Pinero. Even when that’s the likely intent of the question she suggests thinking about what the interviewer wants to learn about you and offering that information.
  • Career coach Anne-Laure Le Cunff recommends building an anti-library – a collection of unread books on themes of importance to you that can serve as a reminder of the limits of your own knowledge and serve as a research tool when needed.

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.