Do you ever go from job to job or industry to industry and think, “It’s impossible to find my perfect role?”
If you’ve ever thought that, it’s because your instincts are accurate. Finding the perfect career or role is hard work. Few people are lucky enough to wake up one day and know exactly what they want to do with their lives. Even when they think we’ve landed on the perfect role, they may discover elements that aren’t perfect at all – or that it’s not what they thought it would be.
In short, it’s not only hard to find the perfect role, but the very idea of a perfect role is a ruse. It’s chasing the horizon. Humans grow and change and our desires grow and change accordingly. Few people go through life never once changing their priorities. And a change in priorities could lead to a whole new search again. If we can’t be flexible and move with those changes, then we’re destined to be frustrated – and we may even break.
But, if we can align for ourselves a list of priorities that include things that may never change (like our values) and things that probably will (like what makes us happy in our work), then we can find the single most valuable tool for finding the role of our dreams: your personal equation for professional success.
Finding Professional Success is a Personal Endeavor
Many people work hard to separate their personal and professional lives. This can be seen in an effort to leave the laptop at the office, only use the work phone in emergencies. Even in vowing not to bring work drama to the dinner table. While these are all commendable and healthy behaviors to engage in, they can be misleading. Because even when we attempt to leave professional tasks or drama at the office, we can never fully compartmentalize our lives and truly shut off.
Things that happen at work can and will affect the way you feel and act at home – even if you don’t talk about them. How your work makes you feel about yourself will most certainly affect your relationships both on the job and at home. Your level of happiness and fulfillment (or lack thereof) will affect how you spend your time outside of the office.
Once we admit that our professional lives 100% impact our personal lives and vice versa – no matter how hard we try to compartmentalize the two – the more empowered we can be to make choices that impact both in a positive way. So, when you’re looking for a job or considering your next steps, go into the process with the full understanding that the choices you make in your professional life will affect the choices you make in your personal life. And vice versa.
That whole phrase, “It’s not personal, it’s business”? Wrong. It’s personal. It’s always personal.
The Personal Equation for Professional Success
I’ve been thinking about this intermingling of professional and personal for years. I began my career with the people skills I developed in my personal life and was able to become very successful in the recruiting world because of it. As my career grew, I wanted to learn more, so I expanded my professional life through roles as a project manager and further education in business school. I wanted to be in the “business of business” to help people. My education enabled me to build frameworks around the skills I learned in my personal life.
In short, my personal skills helped me enter the business world, where I began to expand more on my professional skills, which I then used to help people on a personal level.
It’s all a cycle. Personal to professional and back again.
This cycle has led me to think about the idea of a personal equation. What if there was a way to visualize the variables (personal and professional) that go into our version of success. What if we thought of our professional decision-making processes as an equation with each variable leading to how we define success.
As I thought about this, I was also becoming more involved in the Agile Methodology, which takes an iterative approach to work. Rather than project management, which is very task and results driven, agile has you continuously delivering results and evaluating the work as you go. This more fluid way of thinking about work, started to play into the way I thought about helping the candidates with whom I worked and how I placed them in their desired roles. By understanding that even the priorities and processes are fluid, I could better help my candidates make their next steps and continue down the path to the career that they not only wanted but was best suited for them.
There’s no single or simple answer to what anyone’s ideal career is. Rather, it’s a series of steps and decisions that can lead people to find the right roles for them, at that point in their careers. In fact this process will continuously change for each of us over our professional lives based on where we are at in our personal lives.
To help organize those decisions, I would like to introduce you to my personal equation.
Discovering Your Personal Equation for Professional Success
Want to discover your personal equation for professional success? Here are some of the key the variables that go into the equation:
Product / Service
While I have listed the core variables that most of us can relate to, each of us may have other variables that are important in our own equation that I haven’t listed. All of these things affect your personal and professional life. The order of importance for each of them will vary based on where you are in life and where you seek to go (both professionally and personally).
So, every time I work with a job seeker as a coach, I have them rate this list in order of importance and weight. That way they have a roadmap that we can both look at to make sure we are in alignment and have something to refer back to. Then we can target companies, roles, environments, and cultures that speak to their highest priorities first.
This is something you can do for yourself as well. I highly encourage it! Think of it this way – You never leave for a road trip without putting the address in the GPS first. Same fundamentals apply here. Anytime you’re feeling like where you are isn’t a fit, revisit your order of priorities – i.e. your personal equation. In fact, I encourage people to do this at least once a year. Reason being; we change. Our needs, wants and desires change. Our work, company, culture, and the market are all constantly changing. By periodically revisiting your personal equation you will have a sense of self and always know if you are still on the path to your desired goals.
The more you can understand your own personal equation and how it relates to professional success, the more you can align every step you take in your career with that equation. Every role you consider will have things you love and things you wish were different or better, when you’ve actively decided what’s most important to you, you will know you’ve made the best possible decision for that moment in time. Knowing this, you can either decide to accept the position and work hard to improve things or go into it knowing full well that it doesn’t meet all your needs and possibly be on the lookout for the next opportunity with variables that better meet your personal equation.