Over the last two weeks, I have written about careers and career planning just a bit. There was this post on the importance of planning your career, and then earlier this week I warned about career obsolescence. I have had a few people contact me directly with questions from those posts, and I thought I would close out the topic, for now anyway, with some thoughts on career intent and alignment.
In my planning post, I recommended that the starting point is to write a five-year goal – an accomplishment or a position. Five years is a long time and a lot of development can occur in that period, so I recommend people think of something that is a big stretch from today. But what if you can imagine several alternatives, all interesting, but you can’t narrow it down?
To me, this means that you need to look a little deeper and ask yourself which of those possible alternatives will bring you the most personal satisfaction. Not which will pay the best, which has the best title or other things associated with the actual position. How will you feel when you achieve it? When you can imagine this, then you are most likely creating an alignment between your true self, as you understand yourself today, and that particular choice.
I faced this when I quit a great job because I could not see myself continuing to live where I was at the time. I enjoyed the work, I was learning a lot from the people I was working with, but I could not see myself feeling good about it much longer, because I couldn’t connect with the community. I asked for a new assignment, explained why, and I was told that there would be no moves for the people on this particular project because there was still work to be done. That’s when I realized that the move was my responsibility, not the company’s. The move I made then was intentional – I looked for a specific type of work that was not based on my degree, but on the strength of what I had learned in the previous 4 years. And it was aligned because it challenged my continued growth in this area I had developed an interest in, and in a part of the country I knew I would enjoy.
We’ve all heard the notion that no one on their death-bed says “I wish I had spent more time at work”. But people, throughout their careers, do sometimes wish they were doing something different, or that they had done something different. Their careers were not always aligned to who they were, and their intent in taking jobs may have not been based on the work but on the income.
If you feel at all like you should be doing something different, then you may need to look at these two factors.
- Is your work aligned with your desired growth and interests?
- Have you chosen a position with the intent to do it well to help your personal growth?