When crafting goals in our group, we keep an emphasis on personal growth interests, defining personal growth goals before other categories. But what does a personal growth goal look like? How do we come up with personal growth goals if they’re the first category we discuss? While the nature of personal growth goals denotes that they will be different for everyone, a skillset gap analysis exercise can provide inspiration or guidance for defining these goals.

A skillset gap analysis exercise can be performed on your own, with a mentor, or with your manager. Working through this exercise with your manager is a terrific way for your manager to gain deeper insight into your career objectives and what is inspiring your personal growth goals. Your manager might also be able to help you identify some skillsets that need development in order to accomplish your goals. But there is no mandate that this exercise must be completed with your manager.

Exercise Objective

A skillset gap analysis can help you identify the skillsets you want to develop, grow, maintain, and even neglect. This awareness can guide you to create personal growth goals that ensure alignment with your career goals. The output of the exercise is a list of skillsets, ordered by how much investment each of the skillsets needs to help you meet your career goals.

Current Skillsets

When conducting a skillset gap analysis, you start by assessing your current skillsets. Everyone thinks about skillsets differently; some people are very concrete (React, Redux, Docker, interviewing, documentation), while others think about their skillsets more abstractly (application development, dev-ops, culture, knowledge sharing)–it’s important for your list of skillsets to match how you think about your career, so do not worry about the structure. Don’t even worry about consistency in how the skillsets are defined, just conduct a brain dump and feel free to merge, categorize, or otherwise refactor your list as you go along.

Your list of skillsets will need to be ordered by current strength; there are a couple common techniques for arriving at that output.

  1. Draw a pie chart of your skillsets, where the size of each slice is defined by its relative strength.
  2. Write the skillsets down in an ordered list, ordering them for relative strength.

With either technique, you are ranking the skillsets relative to one another. During the current skillset assessment, you are not ranking them based on how much room for growth there is; that will come later.

Desired Skillsets

The second phase of a skillset gap analysis is to define your desired skillsets; you can use either the pie chart or ordered list technique here too. Your desired skillsets can be as forward-looking as you’re comfortable thinking about. It could be one quarter, one year, 5 years, or by the end of your career. You probably have ideas for where you hope to steer your career, what types of roles you want to move into, what accomplishments you are striving for; to define your desires skillsets, you must identify what skillsets will be necessary to reach those goals. If you are unsure what skillsets will be needed to achieve a goal, your manager (or another mentor) can definitely help!

Much like the current skillsets, your desired skillsets must ultimately be ordered by relative strength–but this time, it’s the relative strength necessary to meet your objectives. Think about the future role you are aiming for and what skillsets would be needed to be successful in that new role, and order those skillsets by importance for that role. Your desired skillset list will often include skillsets that don’t yet exist in your current skillsets; and occasionally some of your current skillsets will be absent from your desired skillsets–acknowledge and embrace this, as both of those scenarios highlight notable growth opportunities.

Skillset Investments

With your current and desired skillsets defined, you can now extract an ordered list of skillsets that need investment. Consider the following current/desired skillset lists:

Current Skillsets Desired Skillsets
Skillset A Skillset B
Skillset B Skillset A
Skillset C Skillset D
Skillset D Skillset E
  Skillset F

This example is using the ordered list technique for enumerating the skillsets by relative strength. We can now look at each skillset and determine what kind of investment each skillset deserves, and prioritize that list of investments.

  1. Skillset B: Grow (Up 1)
  2. Skillset D: Grow (Up 1)
  3. Skillset A: Maintain (Down 1)
  4. Skillset E: Develop (new skillset)
  5. Skillset F: Develop (new skillset)
  6. Skillset C: Neglect (absent from desired skillsets)

By annotating skillsets with Develop, Grow, Maintain, and Neglect investments, we can now be very deliberate about the prioritization of those skillsets when defining personal growth goals. You might identify skillsets that need significant growth or heavy development, or even skillsets that need little maintenance or intentional neglect. Often times, the most powerful moments of a skillset gap analysis are when you identify a skillset that can be intentionally neglected–it’s incredibly liberating when you and your manager can agree on something you can not worry about! A runner-up for that is identifying a brand new skillset that needs to be developed. Skillsets needing growth or maintenance often represent the majority of the skillsets in your list though.

Applying the Gap Analysis

Once you feel comfortable with the list of skillset investments you need to make, your skillset gap analysis is complete–for now. You should revisit this analysis on a regular basis. SAP Talk sessions are a great forum for checking in on progress and goal setting sessions are a great time to refresh your skillset investments. With a completed list of skillset investments, you should be able to work with your manager to define actionable personal growth goals.