What does a career mean to you?

Everyone has heard the word CAREER in their life. Traditionally (at least that has been my experience), the word career has been usually associated with climbing up the corporate ladder, moving into a management or leadership position and earning more money. 

But the word’s meaning has changed, is constantly evolving, and, in reality, we have all created our definition of it. 

When I interview candidates or speak to people who come for career coaching, I often ask them: What career means to you? And  I hear lots of different answers:

“Having impact”

“Being a part of something bigger that has a meaning.” 

“Doing something new that will help me to grow.”

“Becoming a manager.”

“Doing something meaningful.”

What does the research say? 

According to the research, there are four main career concepts:

  • Linear– moving up the corporate ladder towards line manager/ project manager/leadership roles. 
  • Expert–  becoming an expert in the specific area, specialising and developing a skillset, “grow up to be good at something.”
  • Spiral– moving from one position to another related to prior work, adding on additional skills, becoming more “well rounded.” 
  • Roamer– changing jobs regularly, moving into roles and assignments unrelated to each other.

As the research indicates, there are motives behind each concept. Some people enjoy power and authority (linear concept). In contrast, others prefer to change, creativity (spirals), or diversity of the experience (roamers) or want to specialise in a particular area (expert).

According to Gallup (2018), 87 % of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. 

Why is the number so high? In the past, we didn’t have a chance to pick the career that we liked; we usually inherited the occupation after our parents or observed our parents in their career journey. But the perception of how a successful career should look is often rooted in our beliefs (about ourselves and life), previous experiences, parents, and society where we grew up. We usually don’t know what is the best career for us (incredibly shortly after graduating from college, when the expectation from society is to make that decision straight away) as we don’t spend enough time reflecting on what it means to us, personally. We pick the jobs for the wrong reasons, and as a result, we lack satisfaction, fulfilment, engagement, and purpose at work. 

How to find out what a career means to me?

We all have a career (we do!).  Sometimes even more than one!  But our career is evolving! You are evolving! With the experience, our career is changing and developing to something different all the time! Our priorities and needs are changing during our life. The most important thing is to be in a place that allows you to be yourself. 

Self-awareness and understanding what we want from our life and job are essential.

Most of us don’t spend enough time reflecting on what we want before making decisions. Fear of change, society, opinion of other people stops us from understanding who we are and discovering our passions and needs.  As a career and life planning coach, I recognise how difficult it is to drive your career decisions when you face those barriers. To help people navigate their life and career decisions, I let them self reflect, brainstorm, visualise and open the door for the decision making process.  It’s essential to understand who you are, reflect on your work, and model a way forward. 

Here is how you can start, ask yourself those questions:

Is your job aligned with your interests, real passions and personal life vision?

What is your motive behind picking your current profession?

What dreams do you have?

How do you want to live and work?