Finding Your Purpose In Uncertain Times

Concrete steps to find your purpose / deeper dive into the career planning guide

COVID-19’s impact on the global workforce is just beginning to be understood. We’ve seen national trends like the “great resignation” resulting from changing employee values, benefits and workspaces.

At the same time, new factors are driving many workers away from jobs or into new career pathways. Recent research shows that two-thirds of employees felt the pandemic caused them to reflect on their purpose in life, and that 70% of employees see their purpose defined by their work. Bringing personal and professional purpose together is key for this new breed of employee.

To be successful as a leader who inspires purpose-driven performance, it’s more important now than ever to identify your own “why” – the passions that drive you, the values that define who you can be, not just you can do.

Uncover your why to open up the doors to possibility

Career advancement typically involves building a resume with quantifiable results for each job experience that move an employee up a corporate ladder. Results still matter, but they speak more about what you’ve done than who you are. Today’s job seekers are leading their careers with more intention and focus on their own values, and employers must respond to these trends.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that while “business leaders prioritize the commercial value of purpose, employees see purpose as a way to bring meaning to their work and understand the contributions they are making to the company, as well as society.” While leaders seek profits and results, employees want to make a difference. Leaders, they say, should take “a more empathetic approach” that focuses on how the value of their products and services are a direct result of employees’ day-to-day contributions.

Think about what makes you feel satisfied at the end of a long workday. Is it that your company made money, or that you helped guide and shape the careers in your employees? Now think about how you can help employees uncover how their work helps others. Are they leading innovation, strengthening teams, or launching a new product to help your customers? Taking steps to identify and align personal passions with professional goals can lead to a more fulfilling work environment for everyone.

Create stability by defining behaviors

To start, instead of focusing on uncertain outcomes, first embrace the process. Create certainty by defining concrete, process-driven behaviors you can control that may influence your leadership impact and advancement potential:

  • Contributing or asking something insightful in every team meeting
  • Taking on a stretch opportunity beyond your role every quarter
  • Meeting a key stakeholder for coffee every week
  • Making two new contacts every week
  • Offering a strategic or revenue-impacting idea to leadership every month
  • Acknowledging a coworker for something helpful they did, every day.

Next, make it your goal to demonstrate these behaviors on schedule, whether you feel like it that day or not. The idea is to focus on leading indicators of career success, over which you have full control, rather than lagging indicators, like a promotion, which are unpredictable and apparent only after you’ve achieved the goal.

The advantage of concentrating on the process of your work and career is that it helps shape your identity as a valued contributor no matter what happens. And as your self-perception improves, your intrinsic motivation increases, leading you to offer more of your talents to those that need them.

Embrace the journey, and passion will find you

I worked with a former Fortune 500 Director who left his company at the height of the pandemic. After extensive self-discovery work to uncover his values and drive to be of higher service in the world, he felt an undeniable pull to become a full-time entrepreneur. Rather than making more to-do lists, he thought about who he needed to be to succeed and how he wanted others to feel in his presence. His values were a steady anchor amidst the uncertainty that he could rely on—when he honored them, his mood went up, and when he didn’t, he felt drained. Just by tapping into who he needed to “be” rather than what he needed to do each day, he was able to sustain motivation and resilience in the face of daily changes.

In uncertain times, committing to a steady set of career behaviors brings consistency and refinement as you navigate toward your personal and professional goals. It also helps develop self-efficacy, resiliency, and more fulfilling and rewarding work experiences, which can then generate more passion to keep contributing.

Get concrete steps and more in my Career Planning Guide

Ready to make a more purposeful step forward? Download my Career Planning Guide to begin your journey. You’ll get 30 pages of worksheets, examples and testimonials to help you discover your goals, explore the possibilities, plan for your future, and make your next move. It can show you possibilities you didn’t know existed and make a path to reach them.

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