Getting Intentional with Your Career
Very few of us are “born” knowing what it is we want to do or be in our life. We are all gifted, talented and worthy, but no one is birthed into this world to be an Accountant (or any other profession). Knowing what we want to do “when we grow up” is a stress-inducing question – like we should just “know”. We are taught how to be successful and independent but somewhere along the way the lessons on how to be intentional in what we choose to do for a living are missing.
Many of us “fall into” careers, we pursue academic and career interests and eventually hit our 20’s and 30’s and need to settle on something. So, we look around and pick from the most available options to us because we have this imperative to make a decision about our career, and then choose the option that offers us the least amount of discomfort for what we think we want. Usually what we choose to pursue isn’t too far off the path of work that we will find satisfying, but when you “fall into” what you do professionally it still leaves a lot of questions marks as to whether or not this is the deepest expression of what you are meant to do in life.
So how do we choose a career intentionally? It can happen at any point in your working life, but it does require looking at things in a new and different ways. Behavioural science tells us that when we make decisions, we are usually trying to decide between two different options; as in the example of “falling” into a career, the decision is often between what you are doing today and what you think you would enjoy more …and is ready to hand. However, to make an intentional decision you need to look more broadly at your options, and then do some research to explore them.
Intention also requires us to think of the path less travelled, the “rogue” option, the one that scares you the most, the one that isn’t a “sure thing”. In order to make really strong decisions, we should have 3 viable options to consider, because in doing so it broadens our discussions, considerations and thinking. You are not likely going to choose to become a rock star (leaving your secure 9-5, pension and benefits), but in throwing that rouge option into the mix, you start to get a better feel for what you really need and want included in your life (which may mean you choose a career option that supports the time and resources to play in a local band on the weekends).
When we make intentional decisions, we don’t automatically go for the easiest or most obvious choice, we don’t “settle”. We also discover more of who we want to be in life and we build for ourselves the template we need to make strong decisions that continue to support our intentions. This allows us to feel good about what we are committing to, living our values through our work and creating emotional resilience for when the inevitable bad experiences come.
Think about someone in your life whom you admire and respect. Likely they have had the opportunity to get intentional about what it is they are doing and how they share it with the world …they are probably happy and enjoyable to be around too.
“Never underestimate the power of intention. Your thoughts, your words… they are the key to your future.”
Becoming More Resilient
Resilience is defined as the ability to adjust to, or recover from, misfortune. Within this there are two parts; your immediate reaction to the misfortune and the way you manage yourself afterwards. We need to be resilient in “moments” (like when your boss says you can no longer have Friday off) as well as during longer life events, like health circumstances and relationships. Resilience is important to cultivate because we don’t control a lot of what happens to us in life, we can only control ourselves.
Resilient people continually work on these five things to build, and maintain this competence. Take a look, there are likely some you are working on too, and others that could use some love. Here is the good news, working on any one of these items will ensure you have more resilience at your fingertips.
Resilience is consistent when you have strong and healthy relationship with yourself. This includes having a healthy degree of self-confidence, living a “big life plan” (providing you with long-term meaning and purpose) and being able to identify your emotions as they emerge, allowing you to choose how you respond when “life” happens. Don’t worry, no one has them all figured out all the time. What is key here is understanding what kind of relationship you want to have with yourself, and actively working on it, so you are there to support yourself when you need it most.
Resilience is present when you can be your best self, living and expressing your values and principles. This is how resilience shows up when you interact with others, including how you express yourself (words, tone, body language, etc.), how assertive (note this is different from aggressive) you are when you need to be, and how independent you are when there is a lot of emotional pressure to do/not do something (at work or at home). How are you experienced by others? This is all about self-awareness, understanding how you are perceived by others and having the good sense to know what to change, and what is working just fine (even if others may not like it).
Resilience is accessible when you can lean on the relationships you’ve built around you (both personal and professional). We all need people to lean on, and to celebrate with. Resilience here involves being able to put yourself in the headspace of another person, listening to what they are experiencing (without adding your personal view or story) and being there in helpful ways, even when it may not directly benefit you. This one is about both leaning in, and giving back, to the community of people you interact with every day. How much do you let others in? Having a support network consistently present in your life can help you enjoy the good times, and overcome the bad times.
Resilience is actionable when you trust and use your intuition. Everyone makes hundreds of decisions in a day; it’s feeling confident about how we solve problems that allows us to feel resilient. This involves accessing objectivity, looking for the “what else” that is important to consider before acting. It also involves a degree of impulse control, allowing us to be responsive, rather than reactionary (keeping ourselves from doing something that just makes things worse and we will regret).
Resilience supports us when we are suffering. It allows us to be our best selves, even under trying circumstances, giving us the mental breathing room to take a few moments and gather our thoughts, allowing us to be flexible so our minds leave room for options. These things also maintain our ability to be optimistic, trusting that when we do our best with good intentions, it will all work out in the end, which supports our well-being.
You don’t have to have these all figured out. Continuing to be aware of what supports your resilience, and actively working on what will benefit you in building this competency, is exactly the right step. In reading this, you are right where you need to be.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger and more resilient.” Dr. Steve Maraboli.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger and more resilient.”
Owning Your Performance Conversation
.Performance conversations often don’t feel like a level playing field; your manager holds all the cards as she/he imparts to you how your performance was perceived over the past review period. Truthfully (and I can attest to this from both sides of the desk), no one really looks forward to these conversations (management or employees). From a necessary pain in the neck to a more hopeful and aspirational intention, performance conversations are hard for everyone. There are inherent flaws in performance management that cannot seem to be “designed out”. The first is that it is nearly impossible to “summarize” someone’s performance (in a quarter or a year) in a few succinct statements or paragraphs, never mind qualifying it with a word, or a number, on a pre-set scale. Human beings are vast and complex and there is (to date) no measurement scale that will do anyone’s hard work justice.
So, what is the point of all the performance management systems and rating scales? The point of all of it is to have real, clear, useful conversations where everyone leaves with the same understanding. Ultimately it is to support the effectiveness and development of employees (and by extension, their managers) …but it sure doesn’t feel like that is the point. From determining compensation through to promotion possibilities, there is a lot riding on performance conversations.
Don’t be a passenger in this process. You are the expert on you, and the only one who was right there, with a front row seat, on every aspect of your performance. Prepare for this conversation. You may have already done some of this if your organization uses a self-review process. Go over your calendar, write down two things; your results over the review period and the impact of those results. Completed all work assignments on time? Great, that is what they hired you for, what was the impact? Impact is a rich place to find what differentiates you from your job description, helping you to showcase how you went above and beyond and why that was beneficial to your team/organization (as the saying goes, it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it that counts). Do this not in an attempt to defend yourself from something, but in an open, honest and objective way that will help to remind both you and your manager of what you accomplished in the period.
Be ready to receive constructive, as well as positive, feedback. If your manager gives you a glowing review, with no opportunities to improve or to grow, he or she lacks skill in this process. You are an abundance of potential, and because of that a good manager will challenge you to up your game (in a healthy and constructive way). In so doing she or he will also provide support to give you what you need to do so (mentorship, training, education, time, etc.).
Performance reviews are excruciating. We come up against our greatest fears and vulnerabilities and go into this process with gritted teeth, waiting for it to be over (and that is on both sides of the desk). What if you set an intention to make this process work for you? To come prepared with your results, impacts and opportunities for development. Go into this conversation with an open mind that is ready to discuss differences in perceptions, to arrive at common understanding that strengthens this relationship and allows you to be more effective moving forward. What if you took on ownership of this (and every) performance conversation? What would it do for your potential?
“The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.”