You may have days when you absolutely love your job and days when you hate it, but how do you objectively assess whether you are in the right role? This simple career analysis will show you how…
Are you in the right role? It is a question many of us ask ourselves from time to time… and one that is hard to answer using the various quizzes online. The career analysis tool I use with career coaching clients is below, and I think you’ll find it quite helpful.
What I really like about the tool is that it gets rid of all the value judgments and just gives you a simple answer.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about in terms of value judgments. Many years ago I told a good friend of mine from high school that I got into Harvard Business School.
I was expecting congratulations, but instead she looked down her nose and said something to the effect of, “So, you’re going to be one of those people…”
So, in her head, I was going off to do something valueless and evil, but probably lucrative. A tough thing to hear from someone who I always respected and was tremendously smart and gifted. (But an interesting bit of insight into her internal career analysis and how she would tend to guide someone’s career.)
So, rather than worry about your friend or Aunt Susie or whoever passing judgment on whether you are doing the right thing, here is how to do a quick, objective career analysis for yourself:
The 47 Second Career Analysis
First: consider how much you enjoy your job in the present. Imagine it on a scale of 1-10, where 10 being the absolute best and one being the worst. Think about how much you enjoy each day, how fast the day seems to go by (see my post: How to get in the zone), and how you feel at the end of each day.
Got a number? Good. This is your present enjoyment.
Second: think about how well this job will pay off in the future. This could be in terms of extrinsic motivators like status, power and financial well being (e.g. income, stock options, asset ownership, etc) or in terms of more intrinsic motivations (feeling good about yourself, making a difference in the world, etc).
Now imagine it on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the best you can imagine and 1 is the worst.
Got a number? Great. This is your future benefit.
Now let’s look at the career analysis chart below, which I’ve adapted from the great work of Tal Ben-Shahar.
Your first number (present enjoyment) should go on the vertical axis (imagine 10 at the top and 1 at the bottom) and your second number (future benefit) should go on the horizontal access.
The place where the two intersect is where you show up on the career analysis chart.
The ideal place to be is in the top right corner, which is where you love what you do today and it will pay dividends in the future. Your distance from this ideal gives you a sense of just how far you are from the ideal role.
Let me take a minute now and explain the boxes in the career analysis.
Ski/Surf Bums: High Present Enjoyment, Low Future Benefit
We all know this guy. My friend who did this for a while graduated from one of the best colleges in the country then went off to be a ski bum for a while. He got bored with it and now does something different that he enjoys but still isn’t going to pay off in the future.
When you like what you do (maybe really like it) but know that it isn’t going to turn into much more than it is today, you are here. (Check out my post: the perfect job)
Rat Race: Low Present Enjoyment, High Future Benefit
This is where a great deal of us live. When you find yourself in a role primarily because it offers great pay, a good retirement package, and potentially is very lucrative as you rise through the career ranks, you are here.
This is the place where you keep telling yourself, “if I just do this 10 or so more years I will be able to retire and do what I really want to do…” It is really easy to get trapped here, it is almost what our society expects… but at least you drive a nice car (or will)! (See: 7 Signs it might be time to quit your job)
When you keep buying things to feel better about how your professional life is going, this is probably where you are.
Dead End Job: Low Present Enjoyment, Low Future Enjoyment
This is the dreaded role. You hate getting up in the morning, work for the weekends, and can see this isn’t going anywhere. If only you could find a better job…
In some cases there is a real sense of resignation when you find yourself here. Your are stuck in the bottom left corner of the career analysis… not a good place to be on any chart. The key question is what will you do to move out of this place?
Live Your Passion: High Present Enjoyment, High Future Benefit
Now this is the good stuff, and frankly I think most of us only know a handful of people who find themselves here. You are doing something you love, you enjoy the journey of the day to day, and you know that in the future it will pay off for you and your family.
This is where you want to be, and where my career coaching clients are working to get to.
Okay, let’s say you’ve completed the career analysis above and have confirmed you are stuck in the rat race. Now what?
Stuck in the rat race?
The first and most important step is to try and figure out what could put you in that top right corner. What would you enjoy doing each day yet would benefit you in the future?
For many career coaching clients, the answer to that question is elusive. I would recommend starting to answer that question by reflecting on what you enjoy and what your peers think you are good at.
But I would also note that this is about what would give you pleasure in the present and benefit you in the future, not anyone else.
I emphasize this point, because for a long time I believed that investment banking was a rat race career for everyone. Huge pain today, huge payoff in the future. It certainly would have been for me.
Then one day I met someone who absolutely loved it.
In fact, he told me that for him doing an investment banking deal was like taking crack and he couldn’t wait for the next day of work and the next deal to be completed. (What this exposed was my personal biases around enjoyment in the present.)
You see, only you can determine what present enjoyment and future benefit look like. So take the time to do the career analysis above, share it with a friend and figure out how to do something that you enjoy today and benefits you in the future.
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