Career Acumen – Now more than ever

In the book of competencies, there is always one category that we all, as business people, should have a strong command of. It is called Business Acumen.

Business Acumen is a combination of knowledge and skill informed by experience: knowledge about key business issues, the skill to apply that knowledge, and the confidence to act informed by past experiences; Quite a mouthful.

The importance of Business Acumen

In other words, what do we know about the business, what is the transformation of that business, what is the strategy, what are the workforce implications, etc.?

Surprisingly as I develop CHRO and their teams across the globe, there is a huge deficit when this discussion arises.

But I was triggered the other day by a comment and post from a colleague, Dorothy Dalton, who is a leader in Executive Search. The term she used caught my eye, CAREER ACUMEN. Flip Business Acumen to Career Acumen and ask the same set of questions.

Career Acumen: more important than ever

Do you have career acumen? 

Career acumen is the ability to understand the work you are doing, where your career is headed, what is your strategy, do you enjoy your work, if not, what is your plan.

Not surprisingly, that same level of insight relating to the discussion of Business Acumen rises again. 

It seems like so many people are on autopilot, and they are just following the flow. My thought has always been that the COVID-19 experience generated a wake-up call. This time to reflect has caused so many people to rethink and spend some time thinking about their jobs, careers, and family as well.

In a lot of cases, they realized that they hated what they were doing, did not want to continue that thread mill, they wanted to get off. But the challenge is what now? 

In a lot of cases, they had not given much thought to the next version of themselves. 

They had no career plans. Finding another job could mean getting off one treadmill and getting on another. So many questions and what appeared to be so little time… in other words, what do I do now.


During my sessions, I will ask this question who knows what TGIM means? As I see the visual thought process to that question percolating, someone will invariably mention Thank God for Its Monday [or Sunday in the Middle East]. 

There would be laughter and shaking of heads as in NO WAY.

So, my response is, WHY NOT? 

Do you enjoy what you do? If not, why not. What are your plans to change that? So, your plan is to continue what you are doing for the next 15-20 plus years, etc.

I do this little exercise as I want people to reflect more.

Reflect more

Everyone should give thought to where we are now. 

Give thoughts on the jobs we currently have.  A simple exercise could be something as simple as asking yourself a few questions and being honest in your assessment.

  • Am I happy doing what I am doing?
  • If not, why not?
  • If I could find that “perfect” opportunity, what would it look like?
  • If I looked at my career journey, what is that destination? 
  • What am I doing to reach that destination?
  • Do you understand the career you are in and the disruptions ahead?
  • Where is your org headed into this disruption phase? Do you want to be a part of that journey? 
  • What skills will be needed in the future state of your industry as well as your organization? 
  • Do you have those skills, or do you want the skills needed?
  • What is your exit strategy when you hit the career crossroad?

It would help if you diagnosed your career now more than ever.

Career Intersection: Which Direction

We will all in our lives face the career intersection. Some will sit; some will not take a left or right, but they know they do not want to go forward.

I teach a course at the American University in Dubai in the MBA program. One of the constants that I try and get through to my students is that you should get into the habit of reflection. Reflections as to where you are, where you are headed but more importantly, do you want to be where you are headed, especially at this “launching pad”?

Time-honored process

Remember, this process is used in business all the time. When an organization talks about its strategy, they are saying this is where we hope to get, and this is our future state. They have reflected and decided that these are the steps that are needed.  

We could adopt the same process; this is a proven concept. However, execution is the key. Planning is the prerequisite for execution. Planning and implementation are interlinked with each other.

So, take some time and reflect, create your north star, and start the journey of execution. It will not be easy, but that is OK. If you have never given much thought to this topic, it will take some time.  

My mother’s favorite phrase was, the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Take the step. Good Luck.


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