Figure out what energizes you – especially when it comes to your career

Often people want to get promoted for a bigger job title, for more money, for an opportunity to manage more people or to just take on more responsibility. Sometimes, however, you have to be careful what you wish for. The VP or C-Level title is not for everyone. For example, it requires that you spend a great deal of time on organizational alignment and internal stakeholder engagement. And less time learning by doing. Less time on building out platforms or programs. If these things are important to you, working in management might not be the right path to take.

So how can you figure out if you might be comfortable in a senior leadership or management role? Consider focusing on what energizes you. Take a step back and think about your previous work experiences. Think about “When were you the happiest?” or “When did you feel the most energized about your work? Some of this can be figured out through self-reflection or by talking to coworkers and peers.

Another way to determine is an exercise I learned at Intuit. Try drawing a line graph where time is represented on the horizontal (X) axis starting from the day you were born to now. On the vertical (Y) axis, indicate high and low energy levels. Then plot different activities in your life. Next group those activities into themes. From the chart below, I have listed out different experiences in my life (white letters) and then grouped these in themes (see yellow boxes).

Above the age line, the yellow boxes indicate what types of activities energize me, such as working on and managing teams or learning new activities. The yellow boxes below the line indicate low points in life (which I have always seen as times to step back, reflect, and learn), such as a time in my career when things didn’t work out as I wanted or when I dealt with health issues.

When plotting out your career, focus on the areas that energize you. Think about the type of work you want to do and will be doing. Use your previous history as a guide.

As Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”


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