Has your career plan or foreseeable future recently taken a turn into the unknown?
The foreseeable future is like a horizon line and, therefore, we never really know what lies over that line. The timeline of the foreseeable future is different for each of us at different times in our career. During a crisis or in times of relative uncertainty, the horizon line of our foreseeable future moves even closer. Our foreseeable future becomes even shorter and more unknown. For example, instead of our foreseeable future being one year, it becomes one month.
A variety of variables including customer demand, technological innovation, and personal needs and preferences come into play as we move toward our horizon line and progress on our career path. In a crisis or intense time of change, the variables that were somewhat predictable or constant are thrown up in the air and almost impossible to rely on or predict.
Now, given many unknowns and many simultaneous world shifts, many of us are left wondering:
Regardless of the duration or quality of my foreseeable future, how can I take the lead of my career direction and my future happiness?
Though there are always factors that will be unknown and out of your control (especially in times of crisis), you can take the lead of your own career search and direction by practicing reflection and Self-Study. Crisis prompts us to self-reflect, hone in on our purpose, and harness our versatility. Through introspection and planned action, you can zoom out to understand your strengths and your versatility. Understanding these deep inner qualities allows us to adapt and respond intelligently and authentically when presented with change and challenge.
Answer the following five questions to practice Self-Study and take the lead of your career with command and intention. I recommend using a journal and a pen to write down your answers to the five questions. This reflection is an investment in your future and the path to finding more joy, connection, and motivation at work.
Reflection: 5 Questions for Career Clarity and Command
1. What are my core skills?
Skills are the actions we perform well that result in effective, desired impacts. Many people don’t realize that when identifying their own skill set, they need to also think outside of work-related skills and reflect on the larger picture.
When you know your own core skills, you can better determine where your energy can make a meaningful impact. In a journal or on a piece of paper, write: What are your top 5 (or more) work and life-related skills? Think about the skills you use at work every day and situations where others rely on you for help. Ask others you respect for input and feedback on your core skills.
2. What are my core strengths?
Whereas skills are actions that we learn and practice, strengths relate to our inherent abilities and tendencies that result in positive outcomes. We often focus on building specific skill sets but we seldom take the time to reflect on and harness our inherent strengths. So many talented people overlook their valuable inherent strengths like communication, organization, and problem-solving.
I believe strengths are as important as skills, or even more important. Identifying your strengths and reflecting on how you can use your strengths at work is one way to feel more authentic at work and advance in your career. Write it down: What are your 3 primary strengths? This is another great prompt to discuss with friends, family, and peers to get feedback.
3. What is my motivation for showing up to work every day?
Your motivation is your why for showing up and for spending energy on any action you choose to take. Everyone has some form of motivation for showing up to work every day. For many people, money is a large part of their motivation. However, genuine motivation is most often cultivated through connection and purpose at work.
When thinking about your own motivation, reflect on what you look forward to most every day. Answer: Why do you show up to work each day? Connect to your motivation to persevere through challenging times in your career. If you aren’t genuinely motivated and you can’t come up with a why that you’re proud of and excited about, it might be to consider a job change.
4. What is my mission and intended impact on the world, my team members, my organization and myself?
Even when working for a large organization or as part of a team, we each individually have our own mission and intended impact. This prompt is where you can begin to move from current state (the first three prompts) to more aspirational, ideal state reflection. In my second book, Awake Ethics, I talk about a personal mission statement as a form of self-discipline and a reminder of your motivation.
Write it down: When doing the work that you currently do, what is your intended impact on the customers you serve, the world at large, and yourself? Think about impact in terms of all the aspects: the impact on yourself, your work team, your clients or customers, and the world.
5. What are my core interests?
Finally, it’s essential to take a closer look at your interests at work and in life when reflecting on your career path and direction. Interests are products, services, and experiences that evoke joy, connection, and inspiration. What are your 5 primary interests? Write down at least 5 or 10 of your current interests.
Now, reflect on how your interests relate to and align with your current job. Working in alignment with your interests is a big part of taking the lead of your career. When your focus and energy are put toward products, services, and experiences you are genuinely interested in (personally and professionally), this allows you to connect with the impact and purpose behind your efforts. Do you get to explore and work in alignment with your interests every day?
Next Steps: Take Command of What’s Beyond Your Horizon
The answers to these 5 questions matter because they provide insights about your true nature; your characteristics and values that will remain constant and you can leverage regardless of the nature of the changing world. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to apply your skills, strengths, and interests to new applications while choosing the opportunities that align with your interests and motivation.
Your answers to these 5 prompts will provide new insights for how you should navigate your job search and diversify your career. Your answers to these questions point to how you can take the lead by pivoting in your career with a purpose-driven job search, plan an impactful side project, or even start a new venture of your own,
Your answers, especially your answers about your interests and desired impacts, will point to the direction that is most authentic and organic for you. Circle key words in your answers to prompts 4 and 5 and use these words in your job search or as you brainstorm your side project or your new venture.
Use your answers to prompts 1–3 to determine what skills you need to develop to work in alignment with your interests and desired impact, what strengths to embrace, and how to tap into your own motivation.
What lies over the horizon for you? Envision it now in order to take the lead and move toward your potential.
PS — I have added a free PDF download, the Career Self-Study Reflection, to my Free Library of leadership resources!
Download the Career Self-Study Reflection here from the Free Library and work through the reflection questions.
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