If you are thinking about your career and weighing up whether or not your current path is right for you, then it can feel as though your mind’s going round and round, mulling over the same sort of issues and questions, as well as the daily successes and frustrations. Make things simple for yourself if you are looking to audit and examine your career choices by focusing on these questions in the first instance.
Question One - What’s your driver?
Understanding what is at the core of your career ambitions is a great place to start when both planning and assessing your professional life. This might be an incredibly simple question if you are one of the lucky few to have a true vocation. Perhaps you have always grown up knowing you would be a teacher or a vet – but more likely you went through school being quite fond of a few things, picked a degree that looked mildly interesting and popped out the end as clueless about your career choices as you were when you started secondary school. Or maybe that was just me.
Try to dig into the deeper behavioural and character traits that drive you – are you motivated by helping others, by achieving security and wealth, being an expert, or getting a fancy title? This will help you narrow down your career path significantly – there are several online tools that can help, including this classic career drivers assessment. By narrowing down your career drivers, you will be able to see if your current career choice fulfils these fundamental needs.
Question Two - What advice would you have given the graduate you?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? If you’re a few years into your career then think back to the graduate you. If you’re just starting out then think about yourself a few years ago, maybe age 16 or 17. What advice would you have given yourself at that stage, with the benefit of a few years hindsight? Perhaps you had self-limiting beliefs such as putting yourself down or feeling nervous about certain social situations. Perhaps you struggled to articulate your ambitions, or were hugely driven but unfocused.
Check in with today’s version of you – are those self-limiting beliefs or challenges still there? If so, what is in your power to bring them into check? If you have overcome the issues you faced previously, then take a moment to pat yourself on the back and remember how far you’ve come. Often the same issues crop up at different stages in life, and a little time taken to refocus can help overcome these challenges, and ensure they are not getting in the way of career success.
Question Three - What are your three greatest pleasures at work?
This is not directly asking you to think about your strengths. But, given that we tend to do the things we enjoy more often, and therefore build our skill in those areas, the question about what you enjoy at work may well turn out to be the same. Think about what makes you leap out of bed ready for the day at work, what gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction, and you will likely be close to your career strengths as well as the things you enjoy. Now think – how far does your current role and career path allow you to indulge in these things? If you are not getting enough of the things you love, then it might be time to tweak those choices.
Question Four - What’s stopping you from finding your sweet spot?
So, you know what you love in a job – and therefore what your strengths are likely to be. You know which self-limiting beliefs might cause you an issue, and which will drive you onwards. What is it, then, that might stop you from finding that sweet spot – you know, the one where you do a job that feels like fun, and someone still pays you for it at the end of the month? Examine the barriers to pushing your career onwards, and keep asking yourself ’why’, until you get to the nub of the issue. Don’t give yourself an easy ride and you will be surprised with what you find out about yourself.
Taking some time, over a cup of tea or on your commute, to reflect on these questions can help you assess and refocus your career planning. Each naturally leads into the other and helps you build a picture of how your current role might lead you towards – or away – from your ideal career. Armed with that knowledge you can get planning the next steps in the right direction.
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