Category: Purpose

Finding Career Clarity

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You want to leave your job and do something else. You want the next job to be a new change. So, the first thing you do is scour postings on job sites that seem interesting to you. You then either tweak the resume you have, or you create an entirely brand new one. You apply to postings and then wait for a response. Unfortunately, all you hear back is crickets. You make another round of attempts to apply, and once again silence. What happened?

This is a typical approach, and unfortunately, it is also a very common mistake made by job changers. When individuals don’t get results, it can lead to a lot of discouragement. This leads them to be stuck and then having a whole host of bad feelings, wondering why they don’t hear anything back. It’s at usually at this point, I get a call from clients saying that their job search is unsuccessful, and they want me to redevelop their resume. Sometimes I am able to help with a resume redesign and there are other times I cannot. The main reason I can’t assist these individuals in the latter situation is that a lot of them don’t know exactly what they are looking for.  

During a job search many people know that they want to leave their job but have difficulty figuring out what to do next. During their search, they might take their resume and randomly apply to all the jobs that appear interesting. Unfortunately, I have seen this method fail, time and time again. Most people who use this approach lack true career clarity. If you are trying this approach, I can say with some confidence that you might get lucky at finding something, but that’s all it will be. Your job search will be sheer luck. However, as they say, “Luck might not be a strategy, but setting yourself up to be lucky might be.” During  a career transition the best strategy is to set yourself up to be as lucky as you can possibly be.

One successful approach to this particular problem is to have clarity before you try to implement any strategy. When you decide to put out a resume and scour job postings, this is actually only one type of job search strategy. Without clarity in what you are exactly looking for, you will not be able to use other strategies or make the ones you are using more effective. Attempting to make a career transition without clarity is like trying to walk a tightrope with a blindfold on. You certainly can do it, but you make it way more challenging for yourself. I strenuously suggest that you never make a career transition without having deeper clarity for the role that you want to attain next. Otherwise, not having clarity can lead to great frustration, doubt and discouragement, when you are not able to reach your goals very quickly. Here are some suggestions for getting greater career clarity.  

Know What Are You Trying to Resolve?

There are any number of reasons to quit your current job. Many people will quit because the pay is not high enough or they don’t get along with their frontline manager or another supervisor. Others will think that the culture is ‘toxic’ or may be searching for better work-life balance. Whatever the reason, it’s important that you know exactly what you are trying to resolve prior to quitting your current job. Many people can overreact to an employment situation, sometimes quitting before knowing what they are jumping into next.  

This is exactly what occurred for millions of workers during the “Great Regret”. A study of approximately 2,500 workers found that 72% of job changers experienced either “surprise or regret” that the new position or new company they quit their job for turned out to be “very different from what they were led to believe.” For these people the grass was not greener on the other side. It’s important that you treat your job change as a strategic move, as opposed to a reactive one. If your move is strategic, then you will be better able to figure out what career options and alternatives would be most beneficial for you.

Be Clear on Your Specific Goals

As mentioned, job changers typically have a clearer idea of what they don’t want, as opposed to what they do want. Because of this, many people will try to remain open to many job possibilities and options. Keeping an open mind sounds very rational, doesn’t it? I agree it does. However, keeping an open-minded approach is not a great one when you are trying to conduct a job search, because employers are expecting the opposite.

When employers post for a position they are seeking a person with a very specific set of skills. They want a specialist to help them resolve a particular set of organizational problems, not a jack of all trades. As you might be aware, many software Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used to screen candidates out of the recruitment and selection process. Therefore, before you start putting out your resume, you must have a clear career objective and goals. Start to think about your own unique career outcomes and important factors, beyond pay and benefits. These may include social connections, skill/knowledge development, work-life balance, continuing education, growth and job flexibility. Write these down, keep them as priorities and make them central to your search. These are all key areas that you need to consider when making critical career decisions.

Be Future-Oriented

In my professional experience one of the most challenging job seeker to assist is the job-hopper. I have encountered many individuals who go through a series of jobs very quickly, appearing to lack interest in any specific job role. Seeing this on a resume makes a poor impression on hiring managers and recruiters when they are screening and reviewing applicants.

In a CNBC article involving manager’s attitudes about job-hoping, Amy Zimmerman, the chief people officer of Relay Payments noted that while job-hopping is “more acceptable than ever” now, a job switch under a year of tenure is still “too quick”. She then went on to mention, “It sends quite a few negative signals. Number one, you lack commitment. Number two, you lack perseverance. It tells me that if the going gets tough, you get going.” Many recruiters suggest that there is a sweet spot for switching jobs. As a prior recruiter myself, I also had difficulty forwarding these candidates on to employers, fearing that they would not stay in a job opportunity for very long. If candidates started to leave roles too soon, it would not make a positive impression on employers that I was recruiting for.

A key aspect in attaining a highly fulfilling and rewarding career is determining what roles are extremely satisfying to you. Identifying and finding these positions does not require job-hopping, it requires strategic exploration. Rarely do people find that ‘perfect’ role in the first or few initial steps, it requires a longer career journey and thinking about your future. Also, as discussed in the following section, many better paying and exciting roles, tend to be higher level ones. To attain these positions requires more knowledge, experience and expertise. You need to think about your career as a longer-term pursuit and journey. Your career is not Frogger, where you are surviving by constantly reacting to career obstacles and difficulties.

Understand Your Potential

Your potential consists of your career skills, interests, values and core personality traits. However, there are many people that attempt to fit into a role, without having any awareness of these key areas. How many of you have been in a job where you are not exercising your best talents? Have you ever been in a company where you were at odds with the organizational culture? It’s important that you gain inner awareness and insight of your “career self’. This will allow you to more effectively align to the roles, company and work environment that you are choosing.  

Also, the success of your career is based on the value that you can offer employers. If you are unaware of what distinctive talents and experience you have to offer, you will not be able to market yourself competitively. The  labour market is a highly competitive environment, especially when applying to top companies. If you do not know which areas of your potential you want to continuously grow and develop, you will always be at a disadvantage. People with extremely successful careers know how, where and when to leverage their career potential.

Job, Career or Calling

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There are people looking for greater career challenges and growth. For these individuals, it’s about achievement. There are people who want to have greater fulfillment and impact on the world through the work that they do. For these individuals, it’s about contribution. For others, their job is simply about a paycheck. What are you looking for in your work?

You might think that the main motivation for why people work is a matter of  life circumstances. We all have bills to pay. A lot of individuals would argue that the reasons for working are not that important, they are personal and as long as the person is ‘okay’ with the job, it’s all ‘fine’. However, I truly beg to differ. It’s important to pay attention to the reasons why you work, because the perspective you hold directly affects your overall career satisfaction, and possibly your paycheck too.

Regardless of the level of satisfaction that a person has with their career right now, I would be willing to bet that every single individual would desire a more meaningful and fulfilling career. If given a choice, I think most people would want to be in a job that would make them happier. This is true, even if they do not actively seek it. However, many people remain feel trapped in jobs that they do not enjoy. These people stay in a demoralizing work environment, stuck in endless rows of cubicles, feeling underchallenged, bored, stagnant and completely uninterested with their day. There is no point to work, beyond the paycheck. Unfortunately, many people stay in these jobs because they never choose with intention to have a more conscious, open and aware perspective of the many other important reasons to work, beyond pay.

Your Work Perspectives Matter

The way a person views his or her work, either positively or negatively, is not just about the job itself. Perspectives about work are about the individual, as each and every person can experience and see an identical job in very different ways. It’s important to realize that your own individual perspectives lead you to seeing your work in either a positive or negative light. You must begin to understand your own individual perspective, because it can help you to experience your work with greater joy and fulfillment. Research has supported that people can view their work in one of three ways: job, career or calling.

Researchers in the field draw some major distinctions between these 3 categories. People who see their work as a job, are usually only interested in material benefits such as salary and perks. They do not seek to gain or receive any other type of reward from it. They see work as a means to allow them to acquire resources to enjoy their time away from the job. On the other hand, there are people who have a deeper investment in their work, and value more than just monetary gain. They may value higher social standing and empowerment. These individuals value achievement, seeing their work as a career. In the third perspective, there are people who find their work inseparable from their life. They feel that their work is a calling. People in this category are looking for fulfilment from their work. Some people assume that the word calling as one that is religious or spiritual. However, this term is more related to work that is socially valuable or beneficial.

Studies have demonstrated that the perspective you have with your work, leads to very different outcomes. Research has confirmed that out of all the categories, in general, callings are associated with greater life, health and job satisfaction. Evidence confirms that people who reported having a calling as having higher life and job satisfaction than people who noted their work as a career or job. One study also found that people who reported having a calling had higher income, as well. These findings contradict the idea that the reasons for having work are unimportant and is simply a matter of individual preference. The perspective you have of your work directly impacts how satisfied you will be, and it’s very important that you evaluate how you view your work. Try the following to gain a deeper understanding:

1. Intentionally Change the Perspective of Why You Work.

It’s easy to stay in a job, believing that it’s mainly about the money and security. I don’t claim this to be untrue. However, you should ask yourself, “How do other people find jobs that are more deeply satisfying and meaningful, while still being able to pay their bills?” If they can achieve greater career fulfilment, why can’t you? I would argue that it is your career intention that is different. There is a saying that goes, “Seek and you shall find”. If your intention in your work is only about money and security then that is what your job will turn out to be. However, if you broaden your job perspectives to include other important reasons to work, you will start to look for them. Change your perspective to seek greater job satisfaction and joy, and you will keep pursuing this goal. Eventually, you will find these vital career qualities. Reevaluate and explore all of your job choices, question your intentions.

2. Seek, Don’t Wait

Many people stay in a job as opposed to seeking a calling because they simply wait. I understand that this is intuitively obvious, but it’s amazing how many people will remain in a job, never even beginning to look at other possibilities around them. Many people wait, hoping that the piano of motivation and inspiration will magically fall on their head. Unfortunately, attaining a very fortunate and successful goal rarely happens without energy and effort. When you think of getting to the top of a mountain, how do you get there? If you intend to get to the top, you cannot wait around for inspiration and motivation, or a magical wind to blow you there. To get to the top, you must consciously decide to climb it. Getting to a particular goal requires the same energy and effort, and so does achieving a more satisfying career. To attain highly rewarding work you must seek it out, as it will not fall into your lap by accident or coincidence. Make constant career exploration, networking and searching a top priority of your career management habits. Continue to seek until you attain the level of joy and fulfilment that you want in your career.

3. Examine Your Values

You career values can be defined as your personal principles that assist you is defining your ideal professional environment. These values can help you identify your most ideal work settings and important role activities, and they frame what is truly important to you when you work. They are also a source of stimulation and enthusiasm for work.

It’s very common for people to continually grind it out at work, using up high levels of motivation and energy to be productive in jobs that are misaligned with their values. Unfortunately, this misalignment becomes a sore point, and they lack what is needed to make a job enjoyable. These unmet needs also become obstacles to productivity. Therefore, finding a role that meets your needs and aligns with your values is key. When this happens then you can better to focus your energy on mastering your job activities that you enjoy and also grow your skills.

Identifying what matters most to you such as your specific type of work environment, job activities, professional development, management styles, social connections, and work-life balance will help you find the exact role that enhances your professional satisfaction and joy.

4. Extrinsic versus Intrinsic

We all need to work for a paycheck, this is a given. However, there are other factors that are as important to having a fulfilling career, and how you are motivated is an essential part of this satisfaction. Psychologists have examined the different ways of thinking about motivation. They view motivation in one of two ways, either a person is motivated extrinsically or intrinsically. Extrinsic motivation is when a person is motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity because of a reward or punishment. The motivation is generated from an external condition, outside the person. Intrinsic motivation is when you perform an activity because you find it rewarding on its own. You are generating motivation from within, internally. As a result, you are performing an activity for its own sake rather than from the desire for some external reward.

When you are searching for a job, it’s important to focus on the internal rewards, just as much as external ones. It’s important when evaluating a position to ask questions related to achievement, creativity, autonomy, challenge and personal development. Finding out what specifically motivates you, so that you can thrive and attain a satisfying career is an important as salary and benefits. Understanding how you are motivated will deepen your self-knowledge about where you are most productive, identify areas where you can accelerate learning, and find activities that are the most rewarding and satisfying.