Energy – Passion – Drive – Motivation
This is what you feel when you’re doing something you love. It happens when you’re enjoying your job and when your career makes you feel fulfilled.
Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint what it is that makes you feel this way.
However, very likely, it’s your VALUES speaking to you.
The majority of my career coaching sessions centre around values, especially when career fulfilment comes up. A recent example that comes to mind was with a research scientist who had taken a promotion into a managerial role, which initially looked like a great prospect. However, as time went along he was finding his job less and less enjoyable and compelling, even though the salary and working conditions were good. Feeling more and more de-motivated and lacking in energy, even to the point of depression, he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was missing.
During our coaching session, following some lengthy reflection and discussion, we established that he was missing using his specialist research skills and was finding structured administration boring and tedious.
Some months after the coaching session, my client contacted me again to say he’d changed jobs within the same company and rediscovered his core values: he was now working as a senior scientist, with a similar salary and responsibilities, but with a focus on his functional expertise, which made him happy and feeling fulfilled again.
So, what exactly are values?
According to Patton (2000)1, values are “constructs that cannot be observed, but they are recognised through the goals an individual strives to attain in life, such as physical and mental health, security (including financial security), social status, and self-fulfilment…. Because our values represent what is important to us, they are influential in most life decisions, including career decisions.”
Can you identify the values that motivate you in your career?
- Are you driven by your research interests and the specialist skills you use in your current role?
- Do you feel strongly about making a difference to people’s lives and/or contributing to society?
- Do you value your work:life balance above all else?
- Are you someone who loves a challenge?
- Do you prefer to work independently?
- Are you motivated by the opportunity to take a leadership role?
Whatever your values are, they can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint and articulate. A coaching session with a career professional can help you with this process, as well as self-assessment tests. One test in particular that comes to mind is within a book by Schein (1990)2, which, alongside lots of really interesting insights into how values influence career decisions, includes quite a comprehensive questionnaire that links to eight CAREER ANCHORS:
- Technical/Functional competence
- General managerial competence
- Entrepreneurial Creativity
- Service/Dedication to a Cause
- Pure Challenge
Whilst writing my book, ‘Career planning for research bioscientists’ I was lucky to be able to secure permission to use an abridged version of Schein’s questionnaire. You can also access it in Google Docs here.
Your scores are very likely to reveal more than one career anchor. Mine, for example, is weighted in favour of (1) Autonomy/Independence (AU), not surprising since I am now working freelance and (2) Service/Dedication to a Cause (SV) – again, not surprising, considering the work I have chosen to do.
Values tend to be anchored and don’t change over time, however, as Schein points out in his book, “Some people who make dramatic mid-life changes in their external careers are trying to actualize what were their anchors all along; they simply never had the chance to do what they really wanted to do.”
Finally, don’t forget that it’s not just your values that determine a happy and fulfilling career. Read my blogs on Skills and Hidden Talents to find out about other ways to discover careers that will give you a sense of meaning and motivation.
- Patton W, 2000. Changing career: The role of values. In: The Future of Career, eds. Collin A & Young RA. Cambridge University Press
- Schein EH, 1990. Career Anchors: Discovering your real values. Pfeiffer