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Finding Work That Inspires you
By Kathy Robinson
One of the first questions I ask my clients is, “How will you know you’ve found the right career for yourself, or how will you recognize it when you see it?”
Each person’s answer is slightly different. Take a second and answer it for yourself.
My answer is, you’ll know it when you FEEL it. You will be learning something new, excited to get to work every day, happy when you’re talking about it with your friends and family, and feeling energized and positive.
In the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses the experience of peak athletes and performers, people widely recognized at being at the top of their game. He found that what they had in common was that, when they were immersed in their activity, they did not perceive the passage of time. They were not ecstatic or hyper, but simply so engaged in what they were doing that they lost track of their surroundings and became very focused.
That combination, of being competent at something and extremely content doing it, is an amazing combination. How can you create that for yourself?
In our work with clients, we often ask, “what’s something you can see yourself spending six months learning more about?” That doesn’t mean you should immediately go spend a lot of money on advanced education. It is, however, an indicator of something that compels you. An inspiring career contains more questions than answers – so that you’re feeling like you’re opening yourself up to something new.
An inspiring career also aligns you with something bigger than yourself. Take the often repeated anecdote about the NASA janitor, who when asked what he does for work, says “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” Into what larger causes are you contributing your personal energy? How are you linked to something larger that is helping solve, create, investigate, or heal?
Your answer doesn’t have to be something lofty like “solving world peace.” For years I worked at a Fortune 500 consumer products company. In that company, I was doing two things. I was contributing to the company’s overall mission of providing products that made people’s daily lives easier and more efficient. In my role in Human Resources, I was helping people solve conflicts, find new jobs, understand the company’s mission and have fun at work. On a day-to-day basis, sure, there was paperwork, there were politics, there were some tasks I didn’t love. But because I believed in the larger purpose of what I was doing, I remember thinking, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this job!”
What is the mission of your organization, and do you believe in it? Also, what is the larger purpose of your own role within the organization? If you aren’t inspired by either answer, it may be time to start some soul-searching. What topics inspire you? What gives you energy? If you’re not sure, ask your friends and family for feedback on what lights up for you, or find a good career advisor to help you.
Wouldn’t it be great to get up in the morning, excited to get to work, feeling energized and positive?<< Return to Articles and Resources Page
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