A career driver is more than a tendency, disposition or preference. It is an impassioned inner voice full of motivation (push) and inspiration (pull) which strongly influences us.
Clearly articulating what matters most to us in our careers is something most of us don’t commit a lot of time to. We might occasionally reflect when something at work really upsets us. Or take a closer look when pressed by outside circumstance. But for the most part, we’re not routinely in touch with what really matters to us, nor continually re-assessing and looking to align ourselves.
There are 3 very good reasons for being perpetually clear on our career drivers:
- Career success is built around a few but crucial “Pivotal Moments”. Those moments are difficult to identify when we’re not plugged-in to what really matters to us and our careers.
- Career success requires a certain amount of bold decision-making. Those decisions are not just based on what we want and need; they are also heavily influenced by what we feel might be at stake.
- Career success requires us to align, commit, stay motivated and deliver. And we can’t do any of those things if our career is out-of-touch with what matters most to us.
So as you read on, I encourage you to dig deep in your thinking and really reflect on the question:
Q. What is it that I really, really, really want from my career?
Let’s start with some basic hygiene factors.
Your hierarchy of career needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs describes basic needs that need to be met before higher-level needs can be considered.
His model of needs (Physiological > Safety > Belonging & Love > Esteem > Self-actualisation) can be a useful starting point when looking at your career. Here’s how his model might translate:
- Career Physiological Needs: A salary. Working hours that provide time to rest and to go home.
- Career Safety: Job security. Physical environment safety. Regular and predicable hours.
- Career Belonging: Positive professional relationships. A sense of cultural fit and an affinity to the mission.
- Career Esteem: Responsibility, recognition and promotions. A feeling of mutual respect between co-workers.
- Career Mastery: Fully using your talents. Finding meaning in your work. Contribution to the greater good.
With your base needs considered, it’s time to drill a little deeper and think about what’s really motivating your career goals. Let’s do that now.
Drilling deeper into your core drivers
There are 9 universally-recognised career drivers that, to greater and lesser extents, propel our career interests.
As you read through the list, do a little career self-coaching by following this simple process:
- For each driver: give yourself an importance score out of 10.
- Make a list of your top 3 drivers, in order of importance.
- For each of your top 3 drivers: give yourself a satisfaction score out of 10 for your current role.
- For any driver that’s not a 9 or a 10, make a note of what needs to change to make it a 10?
- What do you notice as you step through this exercise? What needs focus? What needs change?
9 career drivers
- Reward: For you, a decent standard of living is important. Your primary focus is wealth.
- Security: Your career must provide a solid and predictable future. Your focus is assurance.
- Status: You want to be recognised, admired and respected at work. Your focus is position.
- Autonomy: You crave independence and the ability to make decisions. Your focus is choice.
- Creativity: You want to innovate and be identified with original output. Your focus is originality.
- Expertise: Your goal is to achieve a high level in a specialist field. Your focus is mastery.
- Power: You want control of people, resources and choices. Your focus is dominance.
- Meaning: Your career must create intrinsically valuable work. Your focus is contribution.
- Affiliation: You look for fulfilling and substantial professional relationships. You focus is connection.
Make a few notes now. Which of these really stand-out for you? Which are less important? Which surprised you?
And now, with your top 3 drivers in mind, ask: what do I need to add or do more of to better represent these drivers in my current role? And what do I need to remove, avoid or minimise to align with my drivers?
Accelerating career design
Our careers should be our own agenda – not someone else’s. Our careers should excite and fulfil us – even on the off days. And our careers should facilitate our life’s design – not compromise it.
When we get clear on our drivers, we get clear on what we need to do. The decisions we need to take. The changes we need to make. There’s no sense in waiting: armed with your drivers, get to work on your perfect career – by design.
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