How do you know if you are winning if you don’t know the score? How do you know if you’ve arrived if you don’t know where you want to be?
Are you satisfied with career? To answer that question you have to know what you want. You have to have an image of what your career will be, or at least the elements of what you would call success. You need a vision. A career vision.
Here are the core elements of my career vision.
First of all, I want to be part of a team. Something bigger than myself with teammates who support me and watch my back. I want others to notice if I am not at my desk. I’m very good at self-motivation and self-direction. That’s usually a good thing, but it can work against me sometimes. Since I am productive on my own and am typically low-maintenance, my supervisors typically leave me to my own devices. It gets lonely sometimes. I’m tired of playing Don Quixote, chasing one windmill after another without even Sancho Panza at my side. I want to be part of a team.
Second, I want to do work that builds upon my strengths: planning, programmatics and communication. I’ve proven repeatedly that I can succeed in areas where I am not strong. I feel sometimes that I’ve been asked to play quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, all 165 pounds, 55 years of me as I am today. And yet I show up for the game every day. What I really want to do is to prove what I can do when I play to my strengths. I want an opportunity to show what I can do when the shackles are removed.
Finally, I want to do work that matters. I want a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I want to change the world. Not in big ways, Captain Kirk ways. I’m willing to be the lieutenant on the away team (as long as I’m not wearing a red jersey). I’m willing to make small changes in small places because I realize that big changes are built upon small ones. As long as I am contributing something.
(This last point is almost universal. We all want to feel that we make a difference, a need that smart leaders will draw upon when motivating others. For more on this, see Jennifer Dulski’s article on how to follow the “spirit of the squirrel” to build teams that feel connected to worthwhile work.)
What about you? What do you look for in your work? Are you finding it?