Sometimes I work with someone who only has one hour to spend to review their career with me and I hesitate about what the best use of this time is. It is generally recognised that there are five key elements that add up to whether we are happy at work or not, and they can’t all be covered in one hour.
In the end, however, most career specialists would agree that the critical issue revolves around Career Values. We can be quite happy in a job where there is a mismatch between the work and our skills/interests, but we are never going to be happy in an environment that does not suit our Career Values.
Before I expand on Career Values, it’s worth covering off on the other four elements.
The first two elements relate to whether we are doing work that we like and are good at (skills/interests). Many Australians I have worked with have this aspect of their working life down pat. Our free and easy culture tends to allow school kids to pursue pathways that appeal to them, and they move from job to job throughout their lives performing work that they enjoy and they are good at.
The third critical element to consider is whether the work we do suits our personality preferences. I, for example, had very poor attention to detail, so when I worked in Corporate Banking my spreadsheets had far too many errors in them for my boss’ liking! (Mind you, when it was my head on the chopping block preparing the monthly Board reports, I turned into the most meticulous checker you could ever imagine – I just needed a double scotch afterwards to recover!)
The second last piece of the puzzle is to consider what sort of work mates you like. I use the famous Holland Code to help people think through this issue. Someone I worked with a few weeks ago described this very well. She said that she was able to connect with everyone – it’s just that some people took a bit more effort than others.
But of all the analysis to complete, I think the most important is an examination of what are called your Career Values.
We’re not talking here about things like Customer Service or Teamwork. What we mean is what work environment you need to be in to be happy.
My number one value is Independence. I have a huge need to set my own pathway in life. This means that I either need a boss who’s going to leave me alone. Or, that I work for myself, as I have done for the past 14 years or so.
In my work as a Career Transition consultant, I sometimes work with someone who is very angry at the way their organisation has parted company with them. Once they have completed our exercise where they rank their Top Seven Career Values, I ask them whether those values were satisfied in their previous job. And, quite often, once they have completed this simple, telling analysis, they realise that they weren’t happy there anyway.
More than any counselling I could provide, this exercise can help the person start to come to terms with the abrupt change in their working life.
There are many websites where you can access this exercise. We use the famous Knowdell Card Sorts, so I don’t necessarily keep up to date with the latest website. Traditionally, I recommend the following site, which was/is regarded as the best in the world. They now charge a small fee now to access the site, but I think it’s worth it. http://www.cdm.uwaterloo.ca. And, of course, there is always
Richard Bolles’ famous book, “What Color is your Parachute?” I read it many years ago when I was bored in my last job and not sure of where to head next. Richard inspired me to make a radical change – one which I have never regretted.
The exercise should take you no more than 10 – 15 minutes to complete, but it can give you so much. Not just information, but a possible catalyst to more happiness and satisfaction in your career. We spend so much time at work, it’s worth doing our best to work in a place which fulfils our career needs.
aBOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au