An­chor­ing your res­o­lu­tions

Be­fore you seek that pro­mo­tion, re­view your ca­reer mo­ti­va­tions

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

AS the year 2014 ap­proaches, tra­di­tion di­rects us to start think­ing about New Year’s res­o­lu­tions. Sim­i­lar to Christ­mas car­ols and folk songs, the prac­tice of mak­ing New Year’s res­o­lu­tions has a long his­tory, start­ing with an­cient Baby­lo­ni­ans, who made prom­ises to their gods at the start of each year.

Typ­i­cally, peo­ple fo­cus on goals to im­prove their phys­i­cal well­be­ing such as en­gag­ing in a stop-smok­ing plan, start­ing a reg­u­lar ex­er­cise rou­tine and/ or los­ing weight. Some peo­ple re­al­ize their credit card spend­ing has got­ten away on them, so they fo­cus on get­ting their fi­nances in or­der, while oth­ers set goals to­ward up­grad­ing their ed­u­ca­tion. No mat­ter what, most goals are re­lated to per­sonal self-im­prove­ment.

Yet, from a ca­reer per­spec­tive, one of the goals peo­ple of­ten make, es­pe­cially if they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chal­lenges at work, is to seek a pro­mo­tion to a more se­nior po­si­tion. This goal is made with sev­eral things in mind, such as seek­ing an in­crease in wages, more promi­nence and/or in­flu­ence in the work­place, the de­sire to take on more re­spon­si­bil­ity, the de­sire to man­age peo­ple and/or the de­sire and need for more con­trol of one’s role in the work­place.

How­ever, while hav­ing a ca­reer goal for a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion is all well and good, I of­ten chal­lenge peo­ple to think through their idea more clearly be­cause mov­ing “up,” es­pe­cially to the high­est lev­els in an or­ga­ni­za­tion, is not al­ways the best an­swer to their ca­reer dilemma. In fact, fo­cus­ing on get­ting pro­moted can be the wrong de­ci­sion al­to­gether, es­pe­cially for those in­di­vid­u­als who have more tech­ni­cal skills rather than peo­ple skills. The sit­u­a­tion also begs the ques­tion: Will a pro­mo­tion re­ally make you happy and ful­filled?

My an­swer to that ques­tion is ab­so­lutely not! Be­fore you even think about a pro­mo­tion, you need to re­ally un­der­stand your­self and build strong per­sonal self-aware­ness, es­pe­cially with re­spect to what truly mo­ti­vates you.

I’ve shared this ad­vice in pre­vi­ous col­umns, but once again I want to help you think through your per­sonal mo­ti­va­tors and what th­ese mean for a suc­cess­ful ca­reer. Un­der­stand­ing th­ese fac­tors, or “ca­reer an­chors,” will help de­ter­mine ex­actly what is im­por­tant in your work en­vi­ron­ment. Pri­or­i­tiz­ing th­ese mo­ti­va­tors is crit­i­cal to help­ing de­ter­mine if be­ing in a se­nior man­age­ment and/ or top lead­er­ship po­si­tion is re­ally meant for you. Re­view the fol­low­ing ca­reer an­chor de­scrip­tors and de­ter­mine if they have any sig­nif­i­cance for your ca­reer goals.

Or­ga­ni­za­tion se­cu­rity/ge­o­graphic iden­tity — In­di­vid­u­als who are mo­ti­vated by se­cu­rity and iden­tity pre­fer life in a large or­ga­ni­za­tion where they feel safe and part of the iden­tity of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. On the other hand, peo­ple who strongly iden­tify with their cur­rent ge­o­graphic lo­ca­tion will rarely con­sider mov­ing to another city or area. How­ever, in­di­vid­u­als seek­ing pro­mo­tion must be re­al­is­tic and know that the higher they move up the ca­reer lad­der, the more likely they will face the need for phys­i­cal moves and will also have to travel, spend­ing time away from home and fam­ily.

In­de­pen­dence and au­ton­omy — Most pro­fes­sion­als are mo­ti­vated by this ca­reer an­chor, but it can also be sat­is­fied with­out a pro­mo­tion. Frankly, the more se­nior roles in an or­ga­ni­za­tion aren’t as in­de­pen­dent as one might think. Se­nior lead­ers re­port to an ex­ec­u­tive and/or a board and are un­der con­sid­er­able scru­tiny and stress and must demon­strate ac­count­abil­ity for the suc­cess of the whole or­ga­ni­za­tion, not just one job.

Man­age­rial ex­per­tise — Those in­di­vid­u­als with this par­tic­u­lar ca­reer an­chor want to man­age peo­ple and de­velop teams; how­ever, be care­ful with which level in the or­ga­ni­za­tion you wish to fo­cus on. The more se­nior po­si­tions are very com­plex, fast-paced, deal with a great num­ber of peo­ple in­side and out­side the or­ga­ni­za­tion and re­quire sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity and peo­ple skills. Where does this ca­reer an­chor fit with your ca­reer goals?

Tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise — In­di­vid­u­als mo­ti­vated by this ca­reer an­chor gain sat­is­fac­tion from be­ing known as the ex­pert, yet you don’t need to move up in an or­ga­ni­za­tion to be an ex­pert. Get in­volved in more projects, take a lead­er­ship role with new teams and work as a team mem­ber with other de­part­ments. Fo­cus on find­ing new tech­ni­cal chal­lenges to show off your ex­per­tise.

En­tre­pre­neur­ial cre­ativ­ity — This ca­reer an­chor doesn’t mean you need to be a busi­ness owner or the boss, it sim­ply means you need to work in a fast-paced or­ga­ni­za­tion where you can be cre­ative, where you can chal­lenge the sys­tem and where your sug­ges­tions for im­prove­ments are wel­come. Peo­ple with this ca­reer an­chor of­ten en­counter dif­fi­culty at work, es­pe­cially if the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­sists change.

So­cial ser­vice/just cause — If you en­joy help­ing and/or need to ex­pe­ri­ence the sat­is­fac­tion of fight­ing for a cause, then you prob­a­bly have the so­cial ser­vice/just cause ca­reer an­chor. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, it also means strong in­ter­ac­tion with peo­ple on the front line rather than sit­ting be­hind a desk work­ing on pro­gram bud­gets and ad­min­is­tra­tion. Keep in mind, the higher you move up the ca­reer lad­der, the more you’ll be deal­ing with ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks.

Pure chal­lenge — Many em­ploy­ees be­come bored in their jobs rather quickly. When this hap­pens, the pure chal­lenge ca­reer an­chor comes into play. Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als need to work on a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent projects and typ­i­cally work on more than one at a time. They live on adrenalin, and when the projects are done, they have to quickly find another one or they’ll feel lost. But pro­mo­tion isn’t the an­swer — find­ing another chal­lenge is what works best.

Life/work bal­ance — Em­ploy­ees with this ca­reer an­chor are more in tune with a struc­tured work sched­ule with well-de­fined times. They will be pre­pared to work over­time on oc­ca­sion, but won’t make a habit of it. Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als know how to bal­ance their home and work lives ef­fec­tively. Seek­ing a pro­mo­tion will of­ten un­der­mine this ca­reer an­chor, so be care­ful what you wish for.

Un­der­stand­ing ca­reer an­chors is all about un­der­stand­ing your val­ues and what’s im­por­tant to you from a work per­spec­tive. Keep in mind there will be trade­offs when look­ing at ac­cept­ing pro­mo­tion af­ter pro­mo­tion, most of­ten in­creased stress, your per­sonal time and time with your fam­ily. What do you want and what are you pre­pared to give up?

So when a pro­mo­tion op­por­tu­nity comes your way and/or when you de­cide to seek a pro­mo­tion, keep the fol­low­ing ques­tions in mind: 1. What are the ben­e­fits and what are the down­sides of your pro­mo­tion op­por­tu­nity? 2. What are the chal­lenges in the job and are you re­ally ready for th­ese chal­lenges? 3. What are the risks in the new job? What does this mean to you? 4. How does your pro­mo­tion fit into your longterm goals and what op­por­tu­ni­ties does it present for you? 5. Will the pro­mo­tion take you so far away from the tech­ni­cal skills you love that it would be dif­fi­cult to move back into a for­mer role? 6. What is the long-term ca­reer path for this pro­mo­tion? Where will it take you? Do you re­ally want to go there? 7. How sta­ble are the peo­ple re­la­tion­ships in the or­ga­ni­za­tion? What im­pact or risk would be cre­ated if your boss/men­tor left the or­ga­ni­za­tion? 8. What is the ca­reer po­ten­tial in your in­dus­try sec­tor over­all? Will a pro­mo­tion open up other op­por­tu­ni­ties for you? 9. To what ex­tent will a pro­mo­tion up­set your work/life bal­ance? Are you able to live with this? Can it be man­aged? 10. What is your fall­back po­si­tion if you find the pro­mo­tion is not to your lik­ing?

So, when you are mak­ing your 2014 New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, think care­fully as to whether or not a pro­mo­tion will truly meet your per­sonal mo­ti­va­tional needs.

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