It’s an important question and one that can fundamentally affect your life. If in doubt, ask the millions of people who hate what they do for a living and the impact this has on the rest of their lives. Relationships and health are two notable areas that suffer as a result.
We can look to origins of the words. Career comes from the latin word for a wheeled vehicle evolving through French usage for a racehorse or a road. Therefore, it is associated with motion and progress and a path. The origins of “job” are less precise but it’s associated with a piece of work as in Old English "jobbe of worke”.
A useful way to link the two is to think of your career as a journey and your jobs as points on your journey. A journey can reach a destination that forms part of a greater journey. Or, it becomes a turning point of departure on a new journey.
I’ve been researching the world of work since 2012 when my then 15 year old daughter asked me this profound question: “Daddy, what should I do when I leave school?” I must admit that I was initially flummoxed by this question. I started thinking: “How do I answer this question without imposing myself on the answer? What would I do if I were her age?" What advice would I give my younger self with the benefit of hindsight?”
My own findings confirmed what the multitude of studies show - that most people are disengaged at work. Many are disillusioned by work and yet it dominates so much of their lives. Since then I’ve been working with people who want to change careers or who are just starting out, with quite some success.
A common problem is not having any sense of career. Most people think in terms of having a job or looking for a job. If you think like that in today's world of work that is evolving at an extremely fast pace, where many jobs are being replaced by robots or forms of artificial intelligence, you are in danger of being swept away by the tide of change. The consequences of this are not pretty!
All this experience has led me to these 10 Ps of a Great Career. They are by no means definitive but people with great careers will typically display most if not all of these attributes. And, you can download the worksheet that goes with these so you can lay the foundation for your own great career.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your career. Future predictions are that people will have multiple careers or portfolio careers. This is great news! It provides an exciting future for those starting out. It also provides a renewed sense of hope for those who today feel stuck.
Passion tends to manifest in strong emotions, therefore, strong movement. It is the source of your motivation and energy for a particular person, place or thing.
Passion gives you the fuel for a great career.
If passion provides the fuel, purpose provides the thrust. It gives you the reason for your passion. It gives you direction.
Positivity enables you to associate to the benefits of having a great career. It gives you what psychologists call “towards motivation”, where you move towards what you want as opposed to moving away from what you don’t want. This tends to create better focus and direction. And, you tend to get what you focus on. So, the advice is to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want.
Perspective enables you to see your career in context. It provides you with a sense of relative importance. This is vital to be able to see the potential pitfalls of a chosen career path as well as the positive upsides. It helps you balance out your positivity in a constructive way.
Possibility helps you to determine what can be done. This is essential for knowing where you’re starting from and identifying gaps in your skills or knowledge. It forms the basis of your belief in yourself and in others to achieve your goals. If you find yourself thinking or saying “it’s not possible”. Ask yourself, what would happen if it were possible? What do I need to make it possible?
There is a saying that “plans are useless but planning is everything”! I tend to agree that the process of planning is essential to ensuring that you think things through and remember what to take with you for your career journey. I’ve seen many large plans, once created, being confined to a filing cabinet to gather dust. However, I’ve found planning sessions to be invaluable. The essence of a good plan is flexibility. Therefore, the contingency plan is as useful if not more useful than the actual plan itself. Ensure you have a career plan that can evolve and adapt as you evolve and grow.
What do you do when you meet those inevitable roadblocks? Those unexpected events that attempt to throw you off course? Those times when you get knocked down? Will you give up or find a way past these obstacles?
Your ability to be persistent is largely dependent on the preceding factors. So, you may need to revisit them from time to time and especially when you get stuck. However, your persistence needs to be balanced out with a willingness to experiment to find creative ways around the obstacles. Otherwise, you can fall into the trap of continuing to do something that is not working and expecting a different result. People have been known to call this the definition of madness!
We live in an increasingly connected and networked world. No man or woman is indeed an island on their own. Your ability to relate to others in a mutually beneficial way will be essential to you having a great career. There will be times when you need the help of others to achieve what you want to achieve. There’ll be times when your career will depend on your ability to bring out the best in others.
Treat people with respect and you will be rewarded accordingly.
What’s the point of all of this is you cannot enjoy the jobs that make up your career? Enjoyment-Performance theory states that when we enjoy at least 75% of what we do we tend to perform very well. This enjoyment is driven by 3 factors: you get to do things that you can do well and that you enjoy doing; you get to do things that interest you; the work environment is conducive to who you are - this includes bosses, colleagues and the physical environment.
When we experience pleasure our body releases endorphins that contribute to greater wellbeing.
Although the word can have negative connotations associated with excessive ego expression, pride in its positive sense can be thought of as "a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievement of one’s close associates or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired."
No matter how idealistic we are about doing meaningful work that makes a difference we still need to have enough money with which to live. For many people “enough money” is a relative concept. Others are quite driven by making lots of it. However, you must decide for yourself the role money plays in your life and career. I didn't include it in my list of 10 because it is a purely external motivator.
Although there is no real hierarchy of these 10 Ps I’ve assembled them into a system with a reinforcing feedback loop. As you’ll notice your sense of pride will add to your passion for what you do and so the cycle continues.
You can download a workbook with exercises to help you apply these 10 Ps to your own career. And, we provide a wide range of career-related services for young adults about to leave school or university to people wanting to change career. Or for people who love their work and want to ensure that they advance in their career.
And, you can add your own Ps to this list in the comments below.
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