Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose… what’s driving you?

In a round about way, I earn a living from the conversations I have.

Yup, that’s right, a whole lotta conversations…..

A simplistic calculation based on my diary reveals I have around two thousand a year. Most of these conversations are with people looking for their next career adventure or with those tentatively setting out to have a peek beyond their current role or organisation, to see if that grass really is greener.

For some, it’s urgent and pressing. There’s about to be too much month left at the end of their money. Their search is needs based. They need a job and they need it now.

The tentatives and the adventure seekers have the luxury of time and choice on their side. They can afford to be picky, sort of like a career Goldilocks roaming the marketplace, exploring options, looking for something that’s “Ju-ust right.”

Two questions that I inevitably ask are:

“Apart from the breakfast cereal, how will you know what ‘Just Right’ looks like when you find it?” and “What’s driving you?” (Which is really useful to clarify because it will help you define what Just Right means for You.)

Several thousand conversations later, and articulated in a variety of manners, the answers invariably boil down to just three things: people are in search of a sense autonomy, mastery or purpose in their work.

Autonomy — the urge to determine the direction of our own lives, to set our own pace, to be the captains of our ship.(Ever heard of a high-flying corporate type who has suddenly opted out of their career trajectory to run a food van/coffee shop/ lawn mowing/ dog grooming business? The world of franchising has nailed this element of intrinsic motivation.)

Mastery — the desire to get better at something that matters, to hone skills, a quest to be the best at something, or to work in a setting that fosters improvement and growth. To get better at what it is you do- either for the extra money on offer o the next rung up, or for the sheer pleasure of being the best you can be

Purpose — the yearning to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves, to be part of a team obsessed with challenging the norm, to work for an organisation whose purpose is closely aligned with our own values, to do work that is personally meaningful.

I’ve woven this concept through my dialogue with candidates for some time, but I cannot claim it as my brainchild. The origin of this little gem of an idea belongs to Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation | TED Talk

It’s up there amongst the most watched ‘Teds’ ever. It should be compulsory viewing for anyone managing people. For jobseekers, the guts of what I’m going on about doesn’t kick in until about 12 minutes in.

The moral of my story…

So if you find yourself at that career crossroad, about to embark on the journey of finding a new role, take some time to analyse what’s driving you?What element of intrinsic motivation is highest in your workplace hierarchy of needs? Is it Autonomy, Mastery or Purpose ? Is it a combination of all three? Getting a grip on your own hierarchy of needs will help you to set your direction, explain why you’re on the move, and enable you to articulate yourself better at your next interview. Whatever it is, go for it, and good luck!

(first published LinkedINMay 24/2016)