Identifying Your Stage in Career Development
Over the past two decades of my career, I’ve met quite a number of people. While everyone is uniquely different, when I analyse their career goals and ambitions, I realise that most people belong to one of four groups. Unlike personality types, people can and will fall into different groups at different points in their careers.
The four common groups that I’ve identified are:
- Those who know what they want and how to get it
- Those who know what they want but don’t know how to get it
- Those who don’t know what they want
- Those who are just happy and content
Group 1: Those Who Know What They Want and How to Get It
This group is a dream group and sometimes I’m lucky enough to have people that belong to this group as my direct reports. People in this group are often high achievers but they are also pragmatic and have S.M.A.R.T goals. (The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.) They dream big and they understand it takes hard work, a good plan, commitment, and a little bit of luck to realise their dreams. People in this group inspire others and show others how it can be done.
Group 2: Those Who Know What They Want but Don’t Know How to Get It
People from this group know what they want from their careers; they might say they want to be a CEO, CTO, General Manager, Supervisor, Expert, and so on. If Group 1 is a dream group, we could say Group 2 is a dreamers’ group. Just knowing what you want is not the best state to be in. Knowing how to get there — identifying steps that need to be taken, seeking help, experience, education, and knowledge — are crucial to achieving goals. Having good coaches, mentors, and managers really helps people in this group as they can provide guidance and advice. Over time, with experience and the right mindset, people in this group usually end up in Group 1.
Group 3: Those Who Don’t Know What They Want
As a manager and a mentor, I’ve had a few situations where I asked others what they want and received a blank stare in response. When prompted, I often received the answer, “Oh, I don’t know what I want. Can you tell me?” Earlier in my career, I’d think to myself: How can I possibly help someone if they don’t even know what they want for themselves? But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also become wiser; I’ve learned that we can help people in this group if we take enough time to know and understand them, and if they have the right mindset. Asking the right questions, showing them opportunities, and giving them examples can all help identify what they might want for their career. This may seem like hard work but it can actually be quite rewarding to be a mentor or manager of people in this group.
Group 4: Those Who Are Just Happy and Content
People in this group sometimes also belong to Group 3 or are an extension of it. These are the people who don’t know what they want because they are perfectly content where they are. Other times, they can belong to Group 1, in that they know what they want and how to get there, so they are perfectly happy and satisfied with what they are doing in the meantime. I’ve actually worked with a few people like that and they respond well to genuine support, whether in helping them refine their skills, becoming better at their current role, or getting stretch assignments that are in line with their long-term goals. While being content with what you have is wonderful, I believe that happiness and job satisfaction are infinite feelings and there is always room to feel happier and more satisfied with your career.
Have you identified which group you belong to right now? As I mentioned earlier, we can fall into different groups at different times. Sometimes I’m perfectly happy and fall into Group 4, but other times I have strong desire to be more, to do more, and to become a better version of myself. When that happens, I find myself in either Group 1 or Group 2. It can be quite exhausting yet motivating. I don’t claim to be an expert in career development, however, knowing which group I currently belong to has helped me understand myself and seek out the right support that I need. It is my hope that you find this helpful in the same way.
This is a chapter from my book, “Unlocking your success: The secrets to experiencing joy in your career and life”. Head over to Amazon to find out more about the book.