Honesty is an essential part of your career decision-making toolkit and the gateway to making easier career decisions you are happy with.
Wondering whether you should change jobs? Make a career switch? Or that you need a new career, but don’t know what to pursue? If you are serious about career success – then you need to add honesty to your career toolkit. That’s right, complete and objective honesty. Without some honesty to inform your use of the three decisions (Stay, Go or Switch), you could be putting in lots of effort only to still be heading in the wrong direction.
In order to make a decision about your career, and give yourself the best chance that it will end in success, happiness and help you move forward, you need to be honest in several areas: Be honest about your career goals (and motivations); where you are currently; and what you are willing to do to achieve your career success.
Sounds simple, right. For some people it is, for others (including me), it is not easy. Trying to be honest with myself and work out my true motivations, strengths and ultimately my career path has been hard. To be perfectly truthful, part of my problem has been freeing my thoughts from what J.T. O’Donnell calls the praise addiction. Whereby I was letting my career be driven by trying to impress other people. I realized that to be both successful and happy I had to achieve things for me.
Honesty can be hard. If you need it: Ask people close to you to help provide objectivity.
When I found a way to achieve some objective honesty, it has helped me enormously. Things became much clearer. I now had real insight to help me make my career decisions. The breakthrough was a mixture of listening to feedback within my jobs and throughout my life, and by seeking out feedback from people who know me well. This gave me a kind of 360o view. Once the ball was rolling and I exercised my brain muscles to get used to analyzing myself, it was much easier to start to get some answers from within.
Now you have an ability, to be honest, there are some answers you will need before making your career decision whether to Stay, Go or Switch:
1. Set deeply motivating goals to help you keep achieving over longer periods.
There is plenty of advice available from much smarter people than me about setting goals. If you are looking for some inspiration here is the goal-setting landing page on TED.com – full of awesome information and insight on goal setting. Find a goal setting method and philosophy that works for you. Two things I will say benefitted me:
- My goal was a long-term goal – in that I knew it would not happen overnight because what I wanted to achieve was pretty big. I became comfortable with this and it helped; and
- My goal resonated deeply inside. Having this clear deeply motivational goal allowed me to keep the energy and effort going over a much longer period.
A manager once asked me if I was a ‘salary’ or ‘title’ person. For me, it was salary, at least early on in my career. Now that I am a father I would add a third choice: whole life balance to the mix. If I have 100% time then how do I want to split that to maximize my happiness and strengths?
2. Assess where you are now, so you know if you need to Stay, Go or Switch.
You managed to set a deeply motivational goal for yourself. Now you need to work out if your current situation is driving you in the direction towards your goal. That way you will know what action and decision you need to make in you career. You will know what career path to take.
For this exercise, consider three criteria that will help you measure and frame your situation:
- Learning – is my current situation giving me the opportunity (directly and indirectly) to learn things that will be useful to achieve my goal? Do I like what I am doing/learning?
- Salary – am I in a good spot for compensation? Does my current employer compensate above market value? Do my current clients allow me to make a profit (i.e. do some of my clients want more of my time than they have paid for)?
- Promotion – am I at an employer where I see a bright future ahead? Are my current clients driving my business forward?
Remember you have a long-term goal. The idea is to prioritize being in the best position possible to achieve this goal. For example, if your long-term career goal is to increase your salary, then you may decide to Stay in a job with great learning opportunity because this will lead you to a better chance of promotion and salary increases in the future.
3. Be clear about what sacrifices you are willing to make. After all, you want to be happy at the end.
Now you need to consider the potential life impacts of achieving your goal. Any of us only has 24 hours in a day, and seven days a week. There are no exceptions, no cheating, and no shortcuts. Same for everyone.
So when you decide to set a long-term goal, you have to be comfortable with the effort and time it will take to achieve. For example say you decide your goal is to become an Olympic bobsledder. Great, good for you. But know that you will be training relentlessly. You will be putting large amounts of time into training and achieving this goal. This will be at the sacrifice of many things, including spending time with family and friends.
Be sure you are comfortable with the sacrifices. This is where being free of the praise addiction helps. In other words, you have to be comfortable within yourself about the sacrifices you will make.
Be honest. Save effort and time. Give yourself the best chance of being happy in your career success.
Running through these three steps before making your Stay, Go or Switch decision can save you huge amounts of wasted effort and time. Not to mention, give you the best possible chance that when you do decide and execute the career decision, you will be happier with your success.
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