Are you making career decisions based on what’s really important to you, or are you playing it safe? Do your personal values drive your priorities or are you overly influenced by what others think?
You’ve probably been to a party where you talked to someone you barely knew about your job. Did you have a feeling of pride or an insecure twist in your gut? That person might walk away and never think about you again, so why does someone else’s perceived reaction affect us this way?
When we haven’t thought about what really makes us happy, we default to chasing titles, status, or money, and we’re more likely to worry about the reactions of others. This often leads to a nagging sense that we’re not on a fulfilling path.
To understand what really matters to you, you need to think about the bigger questions. Here are a few “big picture” resources that are a good starting point:
- Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of the best frameworks we’ve seen for orienting yourself around what’s important to you and the “circle of control” that you can impact. Here’s a summary of some of the key ideas, but you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.
- Covey actually takes a lot from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, one of the 20th Century’s most important books on finding meaning in one’s life. It’s an intense read as Frankl shares his harrowing experience in the Holocaust, but you’ll come away inspired by his empowering vision around how every individual can find meaning in focusing on what they can control in themselves and their response to any situation.
- Dan Pink’s Drive talks about what psychology has learned about intrinsic motivation and how autonomy, mastery, and purpose are its most important components. Watch his TED Talk here and learn more about the book and his work here.
While the above frameworks are amazing at the level of life philosophy and can apply to everything you do, we wanted to get more pragmatic with specific career questions. To do this, we created a career self-assessment guide.
RevelOne Career Self-Assessment Guide
1. What motivates you most in a job?
- Solving complex problems and learning new skills.
- Working with smart people.
- Making money – this could be about financial security, goals you have for your family, funds to start your own thing, or future flexibility.
- Working at a company whose mission is inspiring to you or whose product is personally relevant.
2. What are your superpowers?
- Think about your strengths. Where do you excel most? Other people can be a source of good intel on this simply by paying attention to the compliments they give you. For example, what strengths come up repeatedly in your performance reviews? What do your colleagues come to you for help with?
- We often focus on “fixing” our weaknesses, but this may not be the best strategy for either contentment or effectiveness. Research has shown that we are better off leaning into our strengths and where we can be exceptional, rather than investing energy in improving our weaker skills.
3. What kinds of roles and activities made you happiest?
- Which roles or projects do you enjoy most? What activities move you toward that “flow” state where time flies and it doesn’t feel like work?
- What kind of work had the opposite effect, and felt like a grind or a drain of energy on you? When were you chugging coffee to get through a project? Is it digging into data or technology, or doing creative work involving language, messaging, or visuals?
- Do you like working individually with well-defined task ownership and a hands-off mentality? Or do you prefer working in a team that is fully collaborative with looser lines drawn?
- What size company or team resonates with you? Do you enjoy smaller teams and projects that are in a formative stage? Do you like knowing everyone and having more fluid, broad roles? Do you like being scrappy with limited resources but having the opportunity to tinker and experiment with something entirely new?
- Or, do you like larger, more developed environments where the group’s output is much bigger? Do you like scaling and optimizing something that already exists and has data to analyze? Do you enjoy having the resources for leverage and doing things more thoughtfully? Do you like the breadth of a larger org, with a wider range of people to interact with?
4. Do you like to be more of a specialist or generalist?
- Do you like going deep into a topic and becoming an expert? Do you enjoy mastery in a topic area where people come to you for answers? Do you want to progress by running a team in that function?
- Or, do you quickly get bored in a given subject matter area and crave diversity? Do you like the feeling of being out of your comfort zone in a new topic and having to figure it out? Are you comfortable NOT being an expert while making connections between disparate areas?
These questions are meant to tap into your authentic reactions to help you understand exactly what makes you happy in your career. You can test opportunities against these factors and they may point you in the direction of trying a new type of role or environment.
We also recommend that you explore our article on How to Decide Which Company is Right for You and How to Find Your Culture Fit. All in all, we recommend that you try to put title and status aside, and keep yourself open to opportunities that are the most meaningful for you.