[Lessons Learned] Knowing your Career Drivers and Interests

Random Observation/Comment #433: Know thyself. It’s certainly something not emphasized enough this day and age. Stop trying to copy someone else!

me around

Depending on your personality, stage in life, and overall outlook, you will have different factors that drive your career.  These factors include:

  • Material Rewards. It’s important for you to have possessions, wealth, and a high standard of living. (Look for a job that pays well).
  • Power / Influence. It’s important for you to be in control of people and resources. (Maybe you’re fit for politics or management).
  • Search for Meaning. It’s important for you to do things which are believed to be valuable for their own sake. (Look for something that’s important to you).
  • Expertise. It’s important for you to gain a high level of accomplishment in a specialized field. (Utilize your existing strengths and become a subject matter expert for that role. Move up and go deeper rather than broader.)
  • Creativity. It’s important for you to innovate and be identified with original output. (Do something where you can exercise your own ideas and innovations. Dream big and work for someone that supports that).
  • Affiliation. It’s important for you to nourish relationships with others at work. (This is a big part of every organization, especially in the hiring process. Spending 8 hours a day at work, your coworkers are your family, so they better be fun or tolerable to work with.)
  • Autonomy. It’s important for you to be independent and able to make your own decisions. (Independence is what everyone wants. They want to set their own schedules and not work if they don’t want to. I think this is important, but it’s a double edged sword. You don’t want to be on the other side where you’re just lazy. Consultants, contractors, and entrepreneurs work on their own time, but they still work 80 hour weeks.)
  • Security. It’s important for you to have a solid and predictable future. (At a certain point in time, you’ll have a family and financial responsibilities. This is certainly something that stops most people from taking calculated risks.)
  • Status. It’s important for you to be recognized, admired, and respected by the community at large. (I added this in here because some people are obsessed with their reputation. It’s more important to them than the money itself because money can come and go.)

All of these things may be important to you, but try to choose your top 3. What really motivates you and where do you truly want to go with your career?  Are you even in the right industry? Does your job fulfill your drivers? If not, which ideal job does?

Another way to look at this is by your interests and daily tasks:

  • Influencing. You enjoy persuading and leading people. (Middle management tasks).
  • Organizing. You enjoy tasks that monitor structure, procedures, and processes. You like staying organized and looking for efficiencies. (Project management)
  • Helping. You enjoy working with other people and helping them. (Overall just being a good team player and listening to other people’s issues).
  • Creating. You enjoy innovating something new and expressing your own inner vision. (Designer with a vision).
  • Analytics. You enjoy researching and analyzing data. You develop models that solve problems. (Business analyst making connections and seeing the bigger picture).
  • Producing. You enjoy making, maintaining, and repairing physical things. (Developer or Builder of sorts to see tangible results).
  • Adventuring. You enjoy taking risks (physically or financially). (Adrenaline junkie looking for the next bleeding edge thing that could be innovated).

Your job will clearly make you wear multiple hats (and maybe even all of them), but think about what you want to spend 70% of your time doing. Do you want to be a developer and focus much more on the product? Do you want to be a project manager and really keep everything in check? This is a changing dynamic and usually affects your happiness at your job. Maybe you were once adventuring on a new project, but now that project has gone stale and you want to see the next big thing.

In my own reflections, I’ve found that I don’t care that much about material rewards or security.  I’m much more interested in using my creativity/engineering/design thought processes, building relationships with my coworkers, and leading people. It’s more and more clear to me that I just love the feeling of contributing to a community and giving back what I’ve learned.  I think this is why I love mentorship programs and want to be a professor as a 2nd and 3rd career down the road.

Obviously, no one can tell you what you enjoy doing. I hope this post has at least made you think of why you feel a certain way about your position.

~See Lemons Drive a Career