What drives your career?

Tips for taking ownership of your satisfaction and success at work

Rolling the dice on your career when you could be playing cards instead? It is not that career selection and professional development should be taken as lightly as a game, but many people are at a loss for how to pursue meaningful career growth and satisfaction at work. This lack of clarity leads to "paralysis by analysis" (i.e., you think too much and do very little about it) or just taking whatever comes to you – instead of pursuing defined targets.

When you aren't sure why you are unsatisfied at work or what you are targeting, career transitions become more about getting away from what you don't like instead of intentionally pursuing what you want. Luckily, at a recent conference I learned of a "Career Drivers" card game that seems to be an ideal starting place. Here are tips on how to increase your career satisfaction.

Discover what drives your career. Created by Instructure to complement their employee development software solution Bridge, the Bridge Drivers card game enables employees to identify key areas that impact their satisfaction and success at work. Players of the game select from six different categories that include everything from role and location to amount of autonomy and ability to take risks. Users narrow their list of drivers and then rank their satisfaction within each. With clarity regarding individual drivers and the gaps in current satisfaction, employees have a guide to use in seeking what they need to improve their situation.

Own your development. In a 2018/2019 poll conducted by CareerBuilder, "only 32% of employees are satisfied with the opportunities for career advancement … and (58%) think their company does not offer enough opportunities to learn new skills and help them move up in their career." If you are one of the almost 60% who feel your company lacks training, don't despair. You can advance your development by asking for or seeking out what you want. No passively waiting for a formal program to be developed required.

Instead, use the knowledge you have of your drivers to pursue opportunities to strengthen your skills and prospects. Some ideas include asking for projects, special assignments or mentors at your company. Additionally, you can get involved in external industry associations, conferences or Meetup groups. This proactive involvement serves a dual purpose of growing your skills and building a relevant professional network.

Take action. "If you don't ask, you don't get." Mahatma Gandhi. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Wayne Gretzky. "Just do it." Nike. You get the point. You need to act to get the things you want or need. After coaching thousands on career paths and professional development, I see over and over again that being passive is the fastest way to derail success and satisfaction. Take an active stance in your career – even when you may just be in a temporary job. Strive to get more from work, build a reputation for professionalism, ask for opportunities and be clear about your growth goals.

Often, I have seen that what looks like neglect or disinterest is actually the result of overworked and distracted managers. If you can be clear regarding your goals, many managers are willing to facilitate. They just don't have the capacity to seek out that information unprompted.

In summary, no one has more invested in your success and satisfaction than you. So, it makes sense that each of us should create a customized plan for development, and then advocate for our needs. Given current economic conditions where turnover is rampant and average tenure is on a rapid decline, it is less likely (and less beneficial) for companies to formally facilitate their employees' long-term professional development.

The great news is that while structured training is beneficial – it is not the only path to growth. Tools like the Bridge Drivers game or the Career Explorer test by Sokanu give powerful and useful insights and vocabulary to use in assessing a potential new job or enhancing the one you are currently in. When armed with a plan, the path to success and satisfaction is clearer and more attainable.

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