This post was originally part of a weeklong exploration of career paths on our ArtsJournal blog, Field Notes.
Part of knowing where you are is about honestly assessing the strengths, weaknesses, skills and competencies you have. By the same token, knowing where you want to be doesn't have to mean deciding on the specific job you want to land. It's more about deciding on the job description you want... and therefore what strengths, skills and competencies you will need. The obstacles you must overcome are the gaps between what you have and what you need.
Another way to look at it is to consider the traditional leadership trajectory in our sector. It looks something like this:
Looking at the diagram you can see that one’s responsibility and skill level are intricately connected. Ideally advancement of ones’ responsibility level is precipitated by an increase in one’s skill level. However, that is not always the case. Depending upon an your path, skill gaps are inevitable. If you start out as a member of the program staff, to advance your career you may need to develop skills in other functional areas like finance or marketing depending upon where you ultimately want to end up. You may want to improve your knowledge of your specific discipline/industry/community/etc. and get some of the bigger-picture, strategy skills. If you are an artist looking to create your own company, you would essentially be starting out in the upper right corner of the graph and may have substantial knowledge gaps that need to be filled.
How quickly can you advance? What's that specific first step? Well, that depends as well... on your current skill level, on the requirements of you dream job, on available training and on other demands for your time and attention. It's worth noting that not all skill gaps will need to be filled. Depending upon where you want to land, you may only be looking to build upon what you already know rather than overcoming a weakness. It also never hurts to have a bit of luck on your side, but more on that later.