With my corporate clients, I’m often involved in career transition programs.
This involves facilitating or coaching leaders as they prepare and build their personal brand for the next stage in their career.
Most of the dialogues start from the wise premise, “What got you here, won’t get you there.”
Behind this though are the tough conversations around what they actually want.
No matter where you are in your career, considering the next level of transition is too frequently skipped over or given only partial focus. The obvious choices of your boss’ job or a role carrying the higher title or pay-grade are planted front and center as the goal.
All career transition work thereafter is set to drive headlong in that direction. But ask yourself these questions:
- Is this actually what you want?
- Is this what would further you in career steps beyond this one?
- Will the role take you nearer or further from your passions and your values?
The Timeless Challenge of Purpose
Purpose is the quiet inner guidance system that, when tapped, informs your career choices and much more.
Let’s be clear — purpose is not permanent. Purpose is almost never one thing.
Read that again. Simply recognizing this impermanence can be liberating. If, by any chance, you have times in your life during which you feel you have purpose, treat this purpose lightly, and don’t cling to it too tightly.
Let it go when need be and be open to embracing a greater purpose that, almost certainly, is about to emerge.
The act of finding purpose is, by its nature, elusive. Purpose evolves and emerges only, to a tiny extent, in response to searching for it. Allowing is the more relevant action here.
And another thing — your purpose has nothing to do with what you do. Your purpose is about:
- Discovering and nurturing who you truly are
- Knowing yourself at the deepest level
- Guiding yourself back when you lose your way
Any and all of the impact you have in your career will correlate to your (constantly emerging and evolving) purpose.
The Six-Step Purpose Toolkit
In absolute and simple terms there are only a few things to do:
- Decide to be open to recognizing your purpose
- Identify, expand and express your talents
- Find more ways and places in which you can use your talents.
In order to do these three things, let’s break it down into six steps.
1. Someone Else’s Purpose
Are you on a career path signposted to you by your parents, your peers, the media, society? Does it really make you happy? Evaluate what you want/where are you heading and run it past the following triage a few times. Each go can uncover a deeper level of thinking:
- Why do I want that?
- What then?
- What will I have or be then?
2. Away From or Toward
You will be surrounded by a rich mix of push-and-pull forces, none of which are inherently good or bad. They are simply forces. Identify those that you can.
What are the situations, roles, people, events, places, circumstances to which you are drawn? What are the situations, roles, people, events, places, circumstances from which you are moving away or by which you are repulsed?
What are the contingent changes for which you are waiting or that need to be in place before what you really want can become possible? For example, complete a few sentences using “When or if … (this is true)…, I’ll then …”
The turnaround works by flipping that sentence around and noticing your thoughts and feelings then. Through exploring the contingency you can uncover your desires and passions; there they sit, masked by the annoying excuse or obstacle.
What are the things you do naturally, almost mindlessly, and possibly take for granted? Your colleagues and friends may often say, “It comes naturally to you.”
Do you have an eye for detail, a sense of humor, a way of engaging newcomers, an ability to think way ahead? This is your talent — this is where your genius shows up.
5. Love It
This is so obvious it should be where you start, but its simplicity often makes it the least actioned part of your purpose work. Simply list as many things as you can that you love. (I use this word deliberately to stir you to go beyond the “like” and “quite enjoy” items).
List the activities, places and people that make you smile, that have an impact on you.
Your career is not about waiting for these things or squeezing them into the gaps in your itinerary. They form the fabric of your life and almost certainly will inform the nature of your impact.
6. The Inspirers
Throughout your life you will have noticed and emulated certain people, consciously or unconsciously, and their inspiration for you lives on. Use this activity to help you on your journey:
- List the six to 10 people who you admire the most, by whom you are most inspired and motivated.
- Next to each name, write down one word or phrase that captures the inspirational nugget they represent for you. (E.g. Mother Teresa — selflessness, Winston Churchill — wisdom and statesmanship, Usain Bolt — absolute self-belief)
- Re-write the nuggets on a separate page. These are now yours, describing the leadership impact you are destined to have, to be used to inform choices and decisions on your journey toward this.
Now turn these fresh written-down thoughts into action. Read your work every day for 10 days, each time pausing to consider how your words make you feel. The physical and emotional response will provide clues to the places from which your purpose will emerge.