People only seeking jobs lose. People who present themselves as seeking a job which is the next step in an inspiring career win.
When you have a career, you are expressing who you really are. The best that is inside of you finds an expression on the outside. Ways to do a better job are always on your mind because your personality drives you in that direction. Both your head and your heart are engaged. You feel passionate about making a contribution to something outside of yourself. Employers like this because you will work hard no matter what the job environment. They will get more for their money.
If you are not on a career path like this, you are not at fault. The decisions you have made at key points in your career were understandable. But they led you to this place of looking for a job instead of pursuing the next step of an exciting career.
Here are some possible reasons why. In your educational decisions, you may have chosen courses and a major based more on the practicality of job preparation than on your true values, interests, and abilities. Now might be the time to listen to and follow a dream, one that may only be a hunch.
In getting a first career job, the emphasis is usually on getting the best possible given a person's abilities. Initially, it may not even be possible to answer the question of what kind of work you find most meaningful. A strong feeling for this and other compatibility factors comes after you have worked in a situation for a while and found part of it to be distasteful. Learn from your past jobs to connect with your inner fire.
Take steps to appreciate your career. Look at what you tend to do naturally. In a meeting, are you more likely to be the person with innovative ideas or more likely to question the feasibility of an idea in a devil's advocate role? In solving a problem are you more likely to consider the logic of the situation or the impact it is having on people. In a conversation with a friend are you more likely to start off with presenting an idea or are you more likely to question and listen to draw out ideas from the other person.
The importance of looking at what people do was driven home in the book and movie Moneyball. It demonstrated that predicting performance is much more accurate when success in situations is considered rather than personal characteristics such as strength or speed on the base paths. The same thinking can be applied to your career. The most important thing to consider is not one of your personality characteristics such as a high aptitude for something or an interest. Both might change depending on the situation. The most important thing to consider is what you do and how you feel in specific situations.
First, look back in your career to identify experiences you enjoyed doing and which made you proud. This is important because you need to get beyond the negative past experiences which come up first for everyone. You will also improve your view of yourself as an effective person who creates results. On the sports field when you were young you may have encouraged and enabled team mates to be more effective. For a hobby you may have created a polished finish on a piece of wood in a model. In the social sector of your life you may achieved a close friendship. In a school project you may have organized information into a persuasive proof of something. In the community or a church project you may have improved the way a group made a decision.
To make your career path turn into a more rewarding direction, begin to engage in experiences which provide meaning to you now, no matter what it is. There is no excuse to do otherwise. Use your current self awareness and career skills to identify an opportunity you find rewarding, even though you are not sure why it is rewarding. Whether it is suggesting to improve a process at work, perfecting a hobby, or volunteering in the community, you can start the process of discovering what is out there for you now. If you want to influence people, get involved in a political party or study how to improve sales of a product. If you want to collaborate with others, join a work cooperative. If you want to make money, get a commission sales job. If you want to make it in technology, start with customer support.
Think and talk about yourself in a way that builds momentum and motivation. Notice that the more specific you are in talking about yourself, the more effective it is.
"I achieve a high on-base percentage by crouching when it would bother the pitcher and managing the strike zone."
"I cook a tasty meal by sampling and adding spices accordingly."
"I improve work processes by asking for the opinions of others in the office and trial and error."
"I improve the morale of people in our work group by asking them what they like."
If you articulate statements like these that are true to yourself, you will discover an opportunity to move towards a creative career. You might make a suggestion that goes beyond your job description. You might look at opportunities that no one with your credentials has tried before.
Your next career step will be unique to you. No one else has the same DNA, the same past experiences, the same values, and the same ability pattern. Would what has led you to this point in your career let you down?
Bill Gregory, Ed.D.