Activating your career GPS [part 1]

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just punch in the coordinates and your career GPS would show you quickest and most direct route to your best next job?

The thing about a GPS is that you have to know where you’re starting from. When you don’t know who you are or what makes you unique in the workplace, it makes looking for a new job a lot more arduous – not to mention trying to define your professional value prop.

Rolling with the navigational analogy, my intent is to share the GPS ‘coordinates’ needed to bypass two of the most common job change dilemmas: the detour and the stall. But first, a couple of stories to bring some color to these dilemmas…

Chandler is taking the long and winding road. He’s a go getter, a man-of-action. He’s applying to every position that pops up from to, changing his resume before every interview and hitting every local job fair. His search scope jumps from Fortune 500, to privately held, start-ups, and consulting. He’s got the LinkedIn, the Twitter, the Instagram, the networking gold-star. But not the job.

As the saying goes, Chandler has the big hat, but no cattle.

Samantha is stalling. Her career change has been in park for solidly two years. She knows what she’s doing isn’t right, but she can’t fathom what else to do. So she stays where she is quietly suffering through each day in a just-good-enough position. She may fantasize about the ideal job, but the reality was that she has no clue what else she could do. Her identity as a business executive is so fixed that it blocks her from seeing any other possibility.

She had no idea who she is outside her work. And therein lies the rub.

Chandler and Samantha have different outcomes, but the same blind spot: they don’t know who they are. This is the biggie that most people overlook.

Some people want to skip over the self-awareness part and move right to the interviewing. Some people don’t know that this piece is even necessary. But if you’re one of the 7.8 million people looking for a new job or the 487k who are discouraged about even trying, there are a few powerful questions you can ask yourself in order to find confidence in your job search.

Knowing these answers will help you gain a very clear sense of where you’re starting – a necessity for any GPS. When you’ve nailed this step, you will have exponentially higher success landing the job where you are fulfilled, purpose-ful, oh and where you don’t feel compelled to press the snooze button each morning.

1. How are you most energized in your work?

If you are energized by being around people or outdoors, this is a clue that you need to avoid 100% remote positions. Yes, surely you can do this job, but how long will you last working at home before you become an agitated grouch? On the flip side, if you are more reflective and do your best work with peace and quiet, don’t fool the hiring manager into thinking you will be their next sales rock star.

2. Are you a details or big picture guru?

Pay attention to how you approach any new decision. Do you dive into research and numbers? Do you need to see, hear, touch or experience the specifics and plan before you can move forward? If this is the case, then perhaps long term strategy, visionary, or free-form roles will not be the best fit. Look closely at the job description and be direct about what you need to succeed. If you are someone who thrives in ambiguous environments, don’t take on a role that requires heavy in-the-weeds work.

3. How do you make decisions?

Some people look purely at the criteria, the facts and the requirements. They enjoy making or following the rules, being direct, and coming to the most logical conclusion. Others tend to approach decision making from a people or values-based perspective. This may not be as black and white as their peers, but it is equally as valuable. Just pay attention to what the job expects from you and ask about how decisions are made or what the company culture rewards. If you are a no-nonsense person and you’re interviewing at an organization where every single co-worker needs to have a say, you may end up incredibly frustrated.

4. What is your approach to work?

This one can cause the most friction between teams. If you are someone who likes spontaneity, procrastinates decisions, pushes deadlines, and is perfectly fine expanding scope for additional options, you may want to think twice about pursuing an industry or role that requires timeliness, order, organization, structure and closure. Knowing what’s true for you will help you set yourself up for success, and greatly increase your odds of being rewarded for your contribution.

5. What are your superpowers – and your kryptonite?

Most people know their strengths. Few people know their true superpowers. These are the areas where you’re skilled and you gain energy from doing them. Where you can completely lose track of time. You drive home singing out loud. They’re so innate that you can’t understand why it isn’t easy for everyone else. Knowing your superpowers is a powerful tool and a great conversation starter. But knowing your kryptonite can be equally as powerful. There are always aspects of a job that completely drain you. What are these for you? Make sure that your kryptonite is not on the JD you’re contemplating.

6. What do you need to do your best work?

This is what I call a “gotcha” area. We rarely equate needs with the workplace and as a result overlook what is one of the most important measures of job satisfaction. Our needs equate to our sense of fulfillment and at a core level, they drive and shape all our emotions and actions. If you need certainty in life, you’ll need it at work also. Seek out positions that are more consistent and stable. Or, if you need growth, pay attention to what growth in a job looks like to you. Ask the question when you interview. And don’t start applying for assembly line positions.

7. What do you value?

In order to have meaning, you need to align your work with what you value most. If, for example, family is one of your most important values, you will be most satisfied working with a collaborative workgroup. They serve as an extended “family” and map to one of your core values. Core values are part of who you are. They govern your decisions – and can be the source of enormous friction if they are violated. I worked with a client who had honesty as one of her core values. Suffice to say that she is not currently pursuing a career in politics.

8. What beliefs, or mindset do you need to meet your goals, and carry you through disappointments?

It’s rare to find someone who is aware of their beliefs, particularly the limiting ones. Limiting beliefs are like the operating system in our brain. They run the show and filter all our choices, actions, or even in-actions. The problem with limiting beliefs is that they are legacy systems that were programmed when we were young. A brain programmed by your inner five-year-old is not usually the best OS to lead you into a successful adult career. Becoming aware of your belief systems, or mindset and updating them is the single greatest choice you can make for your career (and life).

9. What is your career vision?

Harken back to our GPS metaphor. The second requirement to use a GPS is knowing where you want to go. Defining your career vision is equivalent to knowing the end location navigational coordinates. If you don’t have these, you’ll never get out of park (Samantha) or you’ll waste time taking multiple detours (Chandler). Taking time to think about what you are passionate about professionally ends up determining the direction in which you’ll drive.

10. How do you synthesize your criteria for the best job?

Sometimes the problem isn’t knowing thyself, or knowing what you are passionate about doing. Sometimes the problem is that there are just too many choices. Thinking ahead about your list of non-negotiables, must-haves and priorities can provide you with the clarity and acceleration needed. What job responsibilities excite you? What kind of manager do you need to do your best work? What about the corporate culture? The salary? The growth and promotional opportunity? The criteria is yours to define and stack rank.

The bottom line? If you know where you’re starting it’s much easier to get to your destination. The bonus? There’s a confidence that comes from knowing who you are. This confidence is the interview secret weapon, the game-changer. It’s one of those intangibles that edges you above your competition when experience, achievement, education are all equal. And that is a good thing.

Keep watch for Activating Your Career GPS, part 2, coming next week. You have a high level of self-enlightenment, so now what? In Part 2 we’ll dive into personal branding and what to do with all this knowledge.


Julie Schaller is co-founder of M-Power Coaching and architect of the Career GPS System, a professional coaching program that enables you gain clarity of who you are and how to use this knowledge to find a career that is ideally suited for you. Learn more and get your complimentary copy of the Personal Branding Blueprint.

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