As 2022 draws to a close, it’s an enjoyable time to ask, “what’s now?’
The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection. We encourage the career minded to be intentional: revisit what you want from work (or what you don't want!) and have a plan to get more of what you want and need in 2023.
Begin with the end in mind. If you haven’t revisited your career destination for a while, or even if you have, it is always the best place to start. It doesn’t have to be anchored in a deep and meaningful “purpose”. In our experience, there often isn’t some clear “calling”. Instead, there is what we enjoy, or what we are good at. Perhaps it is an environment where we thrive. Maybe it is clarity on what you don’t like! Like the trail of breadcrumbs, these reflections will lead you home. They lead to what you value.
We are most satisfied when our work is aligned to what we value. You may have heard us say this before. What YOU value is specific to YOU. “No judgment” is important here. You might value outcomes: status, reputation, prosperity. Or environments: working in a team, supporting your community, being close to home. Or relationships: making your parents proud, enjoying harmonious interactions, spending time with those who matter most.
Knowing what YOU want is critical. In the absence of an honest appreciation of what you value, you risk getting caught up in other people’s expectations of you.
You can identify your values by reviewing your past experiences. When were you most satisfied? Are there common themes? “I’m always happy working in a team - regardless of the project”. Or “I love a challenge, with the opportunity to learn”. Or “I am happiest when I take charge”. “I need variety. I’m bored with routine”. Finding what is common about your happiest moments reveals what you value most. And you can always ask others: a partner, a trusted colleague, a friend. When do they see you really satisfied? When are you at your best, regardless of what others consider “success”?
So .. How are you doing so far?
From our perspective, you are probably already ahead of most when it comes to career management, if you know what you value. But understanding what you value (and it is rarely just one thing), and where you are right now, might not align. This usually happens when we have engaged in poor career management behaviors. For example, the gap between what we value, and where we are, is often caused by either “drifting”, passively waiting for something for outcomes, without taking control, or “chasing”, moving on to the next opportunity, without asking whether it is what you genuinely want. What “drifters and chasers” have in common is that they are caught up in the tide of their career, without having invested time in thinking about what will make them truly satisfied.
But with your definition of success in hand, you can ask yourself the tough question: how am I doing so far? We suggest you score yourself. It isn’t scientific. But a scale, let’s say from 1 to 10, where 1 = "I am completely dissatisfied with my career success" and 10 = "I am completely satisfied with my career success". Such self-assessment forces you to define the incremental steps you need to take to progress.
Is your goal to be a vice president by next year? Well, if you give yourself an “8”, we expect to hear from you that you know that you are on the succession plan and considered “ready now”. A “6” might be knowing you are doing well, with growth potential, but you have some gaps to fill, or some leaders to convince.
Maybe you want to do interesting, challenging work. If you are in a job characterized by the same, constant routine, while you long for an opportunity to express yourself in a creative profession, give yourself a “2” for that.
Is pay important? If your pay is fair, that is, competitive for your experience, your role, and your location, then you will be somewhere on the positive side of “5”. And if you don’t know what “competitive” is, for jobs like yours, we’ll give you “2”!
Surely, you need to add/subtract points for factors that may be entirely unrelated to work but have a significant impact on your career: family, studies, health, spirituality, health, and so on. The truth is… life happens. You must play the long game in pursuing a career on your terms.
What’s the point? The point is to look across this self-assessment, and ask, what would it take to move just one incremental step, on one thing that mattered?
Just one thing…
Now it is time to commit to action, to move closer towards your goal. It can be a momentous change. Or a small one. And if typically, your New Year Resolutions don’t “stick”, let’s agree to make it a small step. An achievable goal is fine. Better than one you silently believe is out of reach. So, select just one of your success criteria. And ask, what would it take, for example, to move this from a (say) 4 .. to a 5.
By defining what incremental progress might look like, you are, in fact, breaking down the problem. And how to get more career satisfaction is a problem. The good news is you solve lots of problems. Everyday. The difference is that we aren’t often taught to approach a career in this way, that is, something you build through intentional planning and action.
So, find that one small thing. Commit to (just) that action. You can always decide to do more later!
And having done these short mental exercises, if you are feeling inspired about your career, check out these links to earlier posts on how to create a support system to successfully follow through on New Year resolutions:
Happy New Year
To our followers, a huge “thank you”. We wish you a wonderful 2023, a year filled with personal growth, high performance, and most of all, success, on your terms.