Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversations on Charlie’s book Start Finishing. In our last conversation, Jane Hoffman talked about enhancing your best work with aromatherapy blends for each kind of time block. In today’s conversation, Shahrzad Arasteh talks about reaching your “what’s next.”
Reading Charlie Gilkey’s Start Finishing, I was struck by how much of his book can be applied to the process of navigating your career journey, which is the work I do with clients. As a career counselor, my role is ultimately to help people find their “what’s next,” whether that’s what’s next in their current role, a new job, a career transition, or the life they want to create in their second or third act.
Identifying or clarifying their goal is always the starting point in the process, which is something Charlie points out in the book. He talks about two keys you can use to make progress toward your goal: intention and awareness.
Charlie discusses the two keys as they relate to specific obstacles that get in your way (sometimes before you even start), but here, we’ll look at how and why they should be used in career development.
How Awareness and Intention Work Together
Intention and awareness are highlighted individually in Start Finishing, but they’re very closely intertwined when it comes to discerning the “what’s next” in your career. Awareness (self-awareness, specifically) is the first step in the career development process. It helps you make good, fulfilling decisions, and uncovers what you want to do next and why.
The outcome of that awareness is either identifying a goal (i.e., a project) or an idea of what the goal will be. Intention — and being intentional — are about how, why, and where you will direct your focus, time, and activities in support of that goal.
Awareness Identifies Goals
When you’re exploring what’s next, it is essential to take the time to assess and reflect for self-awareness. Some areas especially important to examine include:
- Your preferred skills and strengths. These are what you’re good at and enjoy using. They also include qualities and characteristics you have, such as being very collaborative.
- Top values and needs. Values are core to who you are. They include what matters to you most in your work and work environment, as well as what you need to find work meaningful.
- Priorities, in order of importance. For example, if creating work that allows you to travel and be location-independent is the top priority, it will guide you in choosing and eliminating different options. Other priorities may be more negotiable.
- Experience you’ve accumulated that you want to use in the future.
- The skills, environments, and work that you don’t want to carry forward and want to intentionally leave behind or avoid. Such skills, environments, and work can include those you have experience in, and may even be very good at, but no longer want.
- The difference you want to make, problems you want to solve, questions you want to explore, and the people you want to help through your work.
- What energizes and drains you. These might be activities, topics, or environments.
- The rhythm of your energy and how to leverage and manage your natural energy pattern. If you’re a morning person and your energy is at its peak before noon, you might try scheduling an important career conversation during that time, when you’re at your best.
- Your personality preferences and characteristics.
Why is awareness important?
If you’re not clear about what motivates and energizes you, who you are or are becoming, what matters to you, and what your preferred skills are, you can choose — or fall into — a path that is not a good fit and won’t be sustainable.
Lack of clarity also makes it harder to communicate to others who you are and what you want to do next, which makes it harder for them to help you reach your goal. Clarity and self-awareness help you choose a goal that is meaningful to you, communicate that goal to others, and stay mindful of the goal when you encounter obstacles or distractions.
Intention Moves You Forward
Once you translate awareness into a goal (or a fairly good picture of what the goal might be), you move toward it with intention. Intention is a critical resource.
As Start Finishing points out, intention is connected to your purpose. It gives you the drive to focus on consistently moving toward your goal. It also protects you from spending your time, energy, and resources in the wrong direction or on the wrong things, such as randomly sending out generic resumes — an activity unlikely to lead to an opportunity you want.
For example, if you want to move from one area of your field to a related area, you will need to expand your experience and network. The plan you create for this move should gather the time, attention, activities, and other available resources to intentionally channel them toward your goal of working in another area of your field.
Doing so might entail a one-year plan, broken into weekly and monthly components, with steps such as:
- Informational meetings to learn about requirements you meet and gaps you need to address.
- Training, such as workshops or informal training opportunities, relevant to the new role.
- Experience you can gain to strengthen your portfolio for where you want to be (e.g., volunteer activities, working a percentage of your time in a unit that works in the area of your interest).
- Building and nurturing your network of peers and potential managers.
- Customizing your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other career marketing tools to highlight information relevant to the role you want next.
You should review each step for alignment with your goal. Each week, look at your calendar and see what and how much you’ve done to work on your goal. Then decide if any changes need to be made to your steps, and adjust your calendar to do more of what supports your goal and to drop or revise anything that doesn’t. (Chapters 5 and 8 of Start Finishing can really help with this process.)
Using awareness and intention with each step of your career journey will help you move forward with direction and confidence, and to be more effective in making meaningful progress. (Tweet this.)
As you consider how to begin your own “what’s next,” I invite you to pick one career-related goal you have now. Then, think of ways you can use awareness and intention to reach it.
Want more information? Start Finishing, the book that kicked off all of these Core Conversations, is your deeper dive into all aspects of how to turn your ideas into projects, and how to start finishing your best work.