What four-wheel driving can teach us about career management?

Image of SUV in desert with night sky

Most people know what it means to be bogged. Your car is stuck and no matter how much you hit the accelerator or swear and fret; you stay stuck. Even if you have not personally been in a car that is bogged I am sure you can imagine this scenario. Well, something similar can happen to us in our career-life. We can feel stuck in a career-rut. So what can you do about it?

Wishful thinking and complaining will not un-bog your car. Nor will spending a lot of time measuring and quantifying how bogged you are. The only thing that will get you moving again is action. So it is, that action is required to get your career moving again.

SUV wheel stuck in mudThere are three very practical steps you can take if you feel stuck in a rut. Over the course of this three-part series, I will reveal for you all of the three actions you can take to get your career back on the road again. Let me tell you about the first of them.

First of all, massively increase your level of curiosity! Sometimes used interchangeably with words like interest, curiosity kicks starts change. Research has shown that curiosity is a “mechanism of action.”[i] Curiosity is fueled by both increased knowledge and awareness of knowledge gaps. So start your process of getting unstuck by collecting information about the things that matter most in your work life-role. These things include documenting what interests you. Not just what you find interesting in your present job (if anything) but what gets you all excited. Collect evidence about the things you have done well. Ask yourself what personal strengths you put to work to achieve those successes. Finally, recall times when you have felt at your best and worst. Both experiences are valuable. For the high points think about which of your values were being honoured. For the low points, investigate which of your values were being compromised.

Are you using the skills you most enjoy using often enough in your present role? Is there something you have always wanted to study but you kept talking yourself out it? What career path did you say no to long ago because other people told you it wasn’t the “right” choice? Being curious about paths not taken might rekindle in you the motivation do something about your present career concerns.

Asking these questions and collecting this information will most likely do two things for you. On the one hand, you will begin to collect useful information which will make you feel more in control. On the other hand, it will probably create some knowledge gaps for you. Honestly, most of us rarely think about these things. Both of these experiences – collecting new information and discovering knowledge gaps – have been shown to create the necessary conditions for increased curiosity!

QUTeX is a great place to start if you want help finding resources to use while you cultivate your curiosity.

This is Part One of a 3 part series. In the next article, I will discuss the second hugely useful thing you can do if you are up to your axels in career dissatisfaction.
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[i] Seligman, E.P. Martin and Peterson, C. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues a handbook and classification

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