Being higher up the ladder doesn't mean being happier
When I talk to people about careers, it seems that many continue to think success means progressing higher and higher on that proverbial career ladder. So, I would like to ask you, what’s wrong with being happy at other levels of an organization? After all, management is not for everyone.
To be sure, middle and senior management usually means increased prestige and a larger paycheque, but it also means increased responsibility. In many cases, it also means longer hours, no overtime and more stress. I agree that being in higher management increases one’s profile but I also can assure you that the higher you climb, the farther it is to fall in case of a major career failure.
In fact, I have encountered individuals who were obsessed with climbing the career ladder and did so without giving themselves adequate time to gain in-depth experience.
The result was a growing list of grand titles and then, finally, a career blowout.
In other words, the lack of broad and in-depth experience finally catches up to these aggressive career questers. Unfortunately, their fall from grace will be quite catastrophic and it usually takes quite some time before they experience successful re-employment.
Management is a whole different "ball game," so to speak. It takes a whole different set of skills.
Managers must have a broad perspective of work and they need to understand how all the pieces of the business fit together and understand how their department contributes to overall success.
In my view, a manager’s role is akin to bouncing many balls in the air at the same time. Their balancing act includes managing a variety of employee roles and skill sets, dealing with daily work-related challenges and ensuring employee morale contributes to continuously high productivity. Then again, much of a manager’s time is also spent on administrative and financial tasks.
Thus, individuals who seek out management roles without understanding their personal motivation and their concept of personal success often find themselves anxious and unhappy with their careers. The answer to this issue? Take time to know yourself well because you are probably in the wrong job.
Of course, it would be most advantageous if people really thought about their career prior to jumping into a management role. But no matter what stage of your career, summer is a good time to engage in some career self-analysis. In fact, you might surprise yourself.
The biggest focus through self-analysis is to determine how you define personal success. This goes far beyond having a lot of money, multiple university degrees, a big car and a big house. It is all about a series of accomplishments that have made you happy.
For instance, I remember a mother who had approached me to help her 30-something son. He had started and quit three universities over several years, but all in the same faculty. After all, his father had graduated from a similar faculty. Obviously, it was the wrong one for this young man.
In working with this client, I learned that the time he was most happy was when he was eight years old. His memory of happiness brought him back to building things with those now famous mini-blocks.
I referred him to a counsellor at the local technical college and he then chose to enrol in carpentry. Years later, I learned he did so well that he started his own construction company and is now very successful.
I am lucky to have met so many people who took time to engage in self-analysis and find their own way to a new and happy life. Here are some tips to help you to think things through.
Define your happiness
Take time to think back over your life and determine what activities made you the most happy. What were you doing? How were you doing it? Who was involved? Keep up with your analysis until you have a list of activities and then prioritize them. What does this say about you? What direction does this provide?
Define your motivators
Everyone is motivated somehow, some way. Edgar Schein, a famous career researcher, identified several motivators that drive people toward certain careers. For instance, some people are so grounded by their current home residence that they would never consider moving away. They are involved in the community, other family members are nearby and perhaps they also grew up there. This is known as a geographic motivator.
Others are motivated by belonging to a larger organization. In fact, their own personal identity gets meshed with the corporate identity. They are the ones who sport the company jacket, the company hat, the pen and the coffee cup. They are the walking ambassadors for their employer.
Still other individuals are motivated by being the technical expert in a special field. They want to be known as the best. Some, of course, do want to be managers, they want to lead a team and develop people. Still others want a job where they are continually being challenged as they get bored easily. Some employees are driven by helping others and so they will seek out a helping occupation working for a helping type of employer.
Once you have listed all the activities through which you gained happiness, take time to identify the motivation behind each… you’ll be surprised as to what drove you in that direction. These drivers are called "career anchors."
Determine your personality style
Are you the kind of person who shuns people and prefers being alone? Do you avoid big crowds and have only a small group of friends? Or are you outgoing and personable and need to engage with people in order to be happy? Your personal reflections should identify these traits, but if you aren’t sure, seek out a career consultant and undertake some psychometric assessments to help you get a good look at who you are from a personality point of view.
What are you good at?
During the activity self-assessment, ask yourself what skills you excel at? These skills, along with personality traits, your motivators and success factors will give you good, solid direction for your career journey. Skills typically include communication, people skills, technical skills, financial skills, team-building skills and conflict-resolution skills.
The next thing to do is to put all these findings together. This will create a career map that will begin to give you direction.
My motto is that happiness is doing what you are really good at and what you like to do, 80 per cent of the time. So, this summer, take the time to really think about your life so far. Determine the level of happiness and develop a strategy, goals and objectives to take you where you want to be.