Sunday, April 10, 2005

Key to unlocking your career potential

Many people find themselves locked in careers that have little, or nothing, to do with their attitudes, skills and desires. They happened upon their careers by chance; were led into them by their parents, friends or social pressure; or they thought specific careers were good matches until they tried them. Suppose someone walked up to you and asked, "Are you happy doing what you are doing?" How would you answer ? Could you actually specify what would make you happy? Few people can.

Only you can truly tell what interests you, how developed your skills are, and which of your needs must be fullfilled. You alone can find the keys to unlocking your career potential. Analysing yourself will provide you with a career checklist, much like a checklist you have when you buy a house, or a car, when you date, or when you choose a college. It lists your priorities and simultaneously keeps you grounded in reality.

Now how do you go about knowing yourself in order to unlock your career potential ?
It involves carefully analysing five different areas that relate to your life and your career choices. Here I will explain those areas that relate to your life and your career choices.

Attitudes towards and motivation for work
Do your attitudes about work affect your career choice? Absolutely. They determine your motivation for working and often influence the career you choose.
Where do our attitudes come from ?
Our attitudes toward work are learned early on in life, in much the same way ;we develop our attitudes toward food and people. Our attitudes develop from watching those around us work and listening to them talk about work.
You may hold similar attitudes toward work as your parents and your siblings, or your attitudes may be quite different. To realize your attitudes towards work, get a blank sheet of paper and a pen and answer the following questions.
Do you consider your work to be :
  • good or bad
  • honorable or degrading
  • fun or a chore
  • easy or hard
  • pleasurable or miserable
  • a definition of self -- "an identity" or "a means to an end"
  • something that someone owes you or something you need to get for yourself.
Did you adopt the attitudes toward work that you heard and observed, or did you develop your own attitudes ?
List the attitudes towards work that you hold.

How motivated are you at work? Your work attitudes remain fairly constant, but your motivation for work changes as you enter different stages in the life cycle. The reasons why you work change as you marry, get unmarried, have children, have children leave home, take up a consuming hobby, experience a major illness or death in the family, get ready for a retirement career, or as you undergo any other major life transitions.
Some people are workaholics who think, live and breathe work and some others fall in the category of those who rather not or cannot work much, and valid reasons exist for their mentality.
Now the question arises - How much of your time do you want work to consume?
For this, on the blank sheet of paper in front of you (if you have not got one yet, get one now!!), draw two identical circles side by side. Mark the circle on left as "Circle A" and the other as "Circle B". On Circle A, indicate the percentage of time you currently spend on work and non-work related activities in a typical day. If you wish, go ahead and note what non-work activities consume your time (eg: sleeping, recreation, exercise, socializing, family, personal, professional activities, hobbies or entertainment).
On Circle B, indicate the percentage of time you would like to spend on work and non-work related activities, assuming that your work is both satisfying and rewarding.
The above exercise would give you a fair idea about your motivation for work and the place it holds in your life. The Circle B reveals the amount of time you wish to spend working, if that work is both satisfying and rewarding. Satisfying and rewarding means different things to different people, yet to everyone it means that they get what they want out of work.
What do you want from work? What motivates you to show up at your job on Monday morning and keeps you from heading home early on Friday afternoon?

Test your own reasons for wanting to work. Rank the following motivators from one to ten, with one being the most important and ten the least important motivator for you.
  • Challenge
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Influence over people
  • Intelectual Stimulation
  • Monetary rewards
  • Recognition
  • Self-identity
  • Serve people
  • Social contact
Now ask yourself this question. Are you getting your top five motivators from the career or job you are in? If not, do you need to make a change to get them? If these motivators are important for you, and you are not getting many of your top five on a consistent basis, continue on the path to unlocking your career potential.

Changing your Perspective : Job or Career
A number of people feel misplaced because they're not getting what they want out of the work they're in. A few of the complaints voiced by these people could be in these lines:
  • I have a job but it doesn't motivate me. I need a career, something that will keep me moving up the ladder of success.
  • I'm tired of the rat race - the shoving and backbiting and the push to get ahead.
  • I just want a 9 to 5 job. I'll even be happy selling tickets at a movie theater.
I am sure many of us might have thought along the above lines at one time or the other in our life. You have to realise that even though a career and a job are used interchangebly, there are some differences in how they are preceived.
Consider the following perceptions of both a job and a career.

9 to 5
9 to 5 plus evening and weekends
Leave behind
Take home in a briefcase
Have to do
Want to do
Fall into
little or no preperation or training
much prepration and training up front and ongoing
What to do
Who you are
can have more than one simultaneously
All encompassing
Easy to change
More difficult to change

Check off the descriptions that apply to you and your feelings about your particular work situation. Which category do you find yourself in ? Is that where you want to be ?

If you find that your work is a combination of the two, then you are probably experiencing mixed feelings and need to move toward one of the categories. It is important that you love what you do and feel that it matters. It makes it much more fun in doing your work.
What ever your decision at whatever stage of your life, make sure that it's one that fits your needs. Your attitudes towards work and your motivation for work both play a part in why you work as you do.

Part II : Deciding where you belong

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a very informative post.

Thanks for sharing your ideas.