Five Steps To Find A Career With Purpose
As the weather drops colder and business slows down for the holidays, it’s a good time to reflect on where you are in your career. Whether you’re living your dream or still trying to make it happen, take a beat to look under the hood, tune-up, and make sure you know where you’re going.
Before we jump in, it’s also important to remember that your worth as a human being is not tied to your job, career, or employment status. Easy to read. Work is integral to our being and survival, but it is not the basis of our existence. Burnout is the result of confusing the two.
“If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough.”
-David Foster Wallace
Once we let go of these images of success, especially you New Yorkers, there is room to listen to the one voice that matters.
Full disclosure, most of these exercises are not new. I owe a great debt to the many teachers, books, and workshops that have exposed me to these various methods.
I distilled them all into VAMOS: a framework that explores what you want (Vision), what you’ve done (Accomplishments, Milestones), what’s been done to you (Organization), and what you value (Style). In the end, the combination helped me tap into my unique purpose and I hope it will for you too.
Fast forward 5-10 years and there’s an article about you in the local newspaper, alumni magazine, or industry rag.
- What is the publication?
- Who is reading it?
- What would it say?
Consider how you imagine people responding as they read it, how you would like to be portrayed, and the words used to describe you.
Keeping this in mind, grab a stack of magazines and cut out pictures or headlines that you feel drawn to. Limit yourself to 10-30 minutes. Then glue the pieces together as a collage over printer paper or whatever makeshift canvas you have lying around.
This is your mission, should you choose to accept it.
Now recall all your many skills and achievements: work-related, school, personal, volunteer, small, big, hobbies, etc. The only requirement here is that you actually did them. Take a week to mull over this list so it’s as long as possible.
Highlight your top 25 from this list that you enjoyed the most. The ones that you felt most satisfied, energized, and supported when done.
Then organize these 25 into categories you create – what do they all have in common? Try to limit category names to one word like: artistic, service, control, plan, or heal.
Congratulations. These are your fundamental talents. Use these skills and stories when applying to your next job, stepping up for that promotion, or starting your own business.
Pull out a fresh sheet of paper. At the very bottom draw an oval and put your birthdate in it. Then to the right of the oval, write, “Born.”
Then atop that, draw a circle and put in the next date that is meaningful to you. Write a brief reason next to it. Typically there is something to remember in 2-7 year intervals. Repeat the ovals and reasons until you get to the top of the page.
Record each major decision or traumatic experience. Pay attention to when you failed or when you succeeded. Notice the themes that emerge in the process. Meditate on why you made those decisions and how quickly you recovered or changed course.
Mine include getting rejected from my first-choice college, landing an internship at a management consulting firm, and deciding to leave a company that I loved.
What I appreciate about this exercise is that it points to patterns and personal history that stick with us unconsciously. More importantly, it gives you evidence of your resilience.
You can’t be your best if you feel out of place. Take out three sheets of paper. Label one of each: Boss, Peers, and Environment. Then draw two columns on each page: Best Case, Worst Case.
Describe what you must avoid and what you can tolerate. How does your current position match up? What company’s culture might be better aligned?
Finally, I refer to style as simply your preferences and values. These can be lurking in our reptilian brain as life happens. And they can also be constantly shaped by major milestones (see above). Many assessments like Meyers-Briggs and Birkman unlock this area very well.
But if you’re on a budget, I find the this free values survey a good indicator of your higher values: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/valuestest.html
The point is if you are, for example, highly social then working at a think tank may not be for you. For me, there was a disconnect between my integrity and a previous workplace. This can explain a lot of stress while prompting you to seek out more fulfilling work.
Refresh yourself on our recent series on the Enneagram, a great tool to become more aware about your strengths and weaknesses.
All in all, the landscape of your future should emerge: your intentions, your dreams, and your purpose that expresses itself in everyday work. It may or may not be the job you have today. Work doesn’t always work. But hopefully now you know why and when the right opportunity comes along – you’ll seize it.
The right path is not your title, salary, or bonus. It is tied to the personal transformation of living and stepping into your own best life.
“The world’s deep needs are met daily not only by caring doctors and inspiring teachers but by good parents, good plumbers, good hairdressers, good friends.”