Looking for answers? Jump straight to the Q&A with our experts here.
Careers are constantly in motion. In generations past, it was not unusual to spend decades at a single organization. These days, that is a rare pattern indeed. Even before the pandemic upended career plans for many, 51% of people in the U.S. changed jobs every 1-5 years. And now? A November 2020 study revealed that 64% of Americans say they are actively seeking a new role.
Even for people who are not actively seeking a new role, the idea of career transitions – what might be on the horizon, what opportunities they might be missing, where the grass might be greener – are often on people’s minds. In fact, 60% of coaches polled during the webinar said that the topic of career transition comes up often or almost always during coaching – even when it’s not the intended topic of conversation.
However, as frequent as transitions are – and as much mental energy as they consume – it’s important to recognize that they are not always given the reflection and deliberation they deserve. Frequently, these transitions are reactive – responses to either a termination or dissatisfaction with aspects of a current position. When individuals leap into a new opportunity without sufficient reflection, it leads to an unfortunate cycle: they land in a position that is also a poor fit, and they react by seeking a new opportunity as quickly as possible, they jump into the next role without sufficient reflection…. You get the idea.
Each time this cycle repeats, opportunities are missed – opportunities not only for greater self-awareness, but for finding an opportunity that allows us to spend our days in a truly fulfilling and satisfying professional experience.
Last week, Andrew Rand and David Ringwood delved into this topic in the webinar Career Transition Coaching: How Tapping into Motivation can be the Key to a Successful Transition – and provided practical guidance for coaches to help people make more satisfying transitions, and miss fewer opportunities.
Read on for highlights, or you can watch the webinar on-demand here (or MRG clients can access it in the Knowledge Base here). And jump to the bottom of the post for Q&A from our presenters, Drew and David.
Career Transitions: the Risks, Rewards, and Opportunities for Reflection
While not all career transitions happen at opportune times, they can offer some important opportunities to embrace. They are a chance to focus in on personal and professional development. A transition also offers a fresh start – a chance to rebrand, and perhaps even break bad habits of the past. And critically, a career transition offers a chance to find better alignment and a more rewarding role in the future.
However, most of us are creatures of habit – and it when it comes to how we navigate career changes, those habits may not be working for us.
There are three common mistakes people make when working through a career transition. Avoiding these three missteps can help get a client off to a more positive start when transitioning to a new opportunity:
- Don’t ignore past experience. Often people are deeply invested in present dissatisfaction, or fixated on what might lie ahead. It is essential to reflect on past professional experiences deeply – understanding what worked, what didn’t, and why – in order to make a more informed plan for the future.
- Don’t overlook the role of motivation. A title, a job description – these are the surface of an opportunity, but they may not explain why something feels satisfying and why it doesn’t. It’s important to understand what drives us and what drains us in order to recognize what will provide us with alignment in the future.
- Don’t look at a career in broad strokes (instead, examine the facets). Job: just three little letters, but they contain multitudes. In fact, in any position, the organizational culture, the role and responsibilities, and the professional relationships are all critical factors in what made a given position satisfying or dissatisfying. It’s important to examine these facets individually, recognizing the different ways they impact our professional satisfaction.
The Role of Motivation in Career Transition
Motivation: what drives us and what drains us? What makes us feel like things are clicking, and what makes us feel like things are just… off? These are the intangible, often unobservable elements of an opportunity that can be hard to articulate, but are often at the heart of how satisfied we feel in a given position.
But if motivation is unobservable and under the surface, how do we take it into consideration when coaching for career transition? A psychometric tool that measures motivation can help. At MRG, we use the Individual Directions Inventory™, an assessment that measures 17 motivational dimensions. The recently developed Motivation & Career Report uses that uses IDI data to build a deeply personal profile, providing guidance specific to evaluating career opportunities and recognizing the positions that may provide better alignment.
The Unique Motivational Profile
The motivational data illuminated by an assessment will shed light on the type of professional positions that someone may find more rewarding.
A few examples:
- If someone is highly driven by gaining recognition from others… they will likely feel fulfilled in an environment where they have plenty of opportunities to have their accomplishments celebrated publicly; and they may be sensitive to frequent or direct criticism of their work.
- If someone is drained by lots of details and structure… they may thrive in a position where they can think freely and in big ideas; and they may feel encumbered if required to be meticulous or focus on smaller details.
While it is somewhat straightforward to recognize the impact of one specific motivational dimension, our inner workings are rarely that simple. All of our motivations interact with each other – sometimes reinforcing each other and creating a very strong drive, and sometimes conflicting with each other in ways that can create complex reactions. Examining motivational interactions during coaching can support an even deeper level of self-awareness, helping individuals begin to recognize why certain patterns or tensions have repeated themselves throughout their career.
Think of an individual scores high on Enduring – they’re motivated by demonstrating persistence and willpower – but low on Controlling – they aren’t energized by being in charge of others or exerting authority. When this person is looking at a leadership role, they will need to examine the trade-offs that they may need to make in the position. Will they have enough opportunity to persist on their own that it compensates for the more emotionally challenging work of being in charge? Coaching can help someone look at an opportunity with clarity and identify the aspects that will feel right for them – and those that may not.
Bias is a topic we explore frequently here at MRG. While it is a rich and complex topic, we can begin by recognizing one fundamental truth: if you have a brain, you’re biased. Biases are shortcuts in our brains, and on a neurological level, they help us function. On an interpersonal level, they can cause us to misinterpret the actions of others or assume things that aren’t true. And our motivations, which are such a fundamental part of who we are, can strongly influence the biases we develop. We also tend to “normalize” our biases – when it comes to our strongest motivations, we tend to assume that everyone thinks just like we do.
While we’ll never rid our brains of bias, learning to recognize the biases we’re likely to have can help us be more thoughtful and reflective as we approach situations and relationships. Therefore understanding bias is critical as we approach new opportunities – both to evaluate the opportunity as objectively as possible, and to be prepared for the challenges that may arise.
Understanding your motivational profile is an important first step for recognizing potential biases. The Motivation & Career Report offers a section that specifically highlights possible motivational biases, based on an individual’s IDI data, which can help to further illuminate the assumptions we might make and the possible risks they present.
Using Motivation to Examine 3 Key Career Aspects: Culture, Role, and Relationships
Change is good – and career change is no exception. There are many good reasons to pursue a new opportunity, and these transitions present positive opportunities for growth and development.
Mindset matters, however. In many cases, individuals are focused on getting away from some aspect of their current environment, and don’t take the time to move into the next opportunity with intention.
In order to evaluate new opportunities effectively, it can be helpful to coach someone to pause their reactive response and move from the vague to the specific. Help them thoroughly examine three different aspects of their professional life, and what brings them satisfaction in each: organizational culture, role, and relationships. In each area, a combination of reflection on the past and exploration of psychometric insights can help build a deeper and more precise understanding of what the right opportunity will look like.
What type of work environment will drive you or drain you? The answer is unique to the individual; while one person may thrive in a fast-paced, innovative culture where new ideas are embraced and experimented with, another person may find that lack of stability deeply unsettling. The broad work culture has a significant impact on how we feel about entering the workplace each day (physically or virtually), and working within a culture that is a poor fit motivationally can make it difficult to thrive.
What types of day-to-day responsibilities will you find most rewarding? Some people find organizing and structuring activities deeply satisfying, while others may find them mundane, constraining, or monotonous. While some enjoy steering and guiding those around them, others prefer to work more independently and not have responsibility for leading others. A mismatch of motivation and role can quickly lead to a dissatisfaction with daily work.
What types of working relationships help you thrive? Do highly supportive peers and bosses feel like an asset to your work – or do they feel a little invasive or meddlesome? Do you enjoy working alongside those who love to set and exceed increasingly challenging goals – or does that feel too intense or stressful? There are many nuances to the types of working relationships we appreciate. While we cannot control exactly who surrounds us at work, we can learn to recognize the aspects of working relationships that empower us to be at our bests – and recognize relationships with risk factors.
While some people may feel they can answer these questions easily based on their own experiences, in fact, this level of self-insight is hard to achieve and often colored by our own biases. Objective data from a psychometric assessment plays a crucial role in the coaching experience. The IDI can provide a clear motivational profile to support this work; the Motivation & Career Report, with data broken down and interpreted in relation to these three aspects of professional life, can be particularly helpful during career transitions.
The Benefits of Considering Motivation During Transition
Using motivation as a factor in career transitions requires people to think differently about their career path, and break some well-established patterns. It means looking past some of the superficial aspects of a position. It means re-examining who we are in the workplace, and what we want from our careers. There is no question that this is hard work – for coaches and for the individuals they coach. The benefits of this hard work, however, are significant:
Knowing what to look for. Particularly in the digital job-search era, we are faced with an overwhelming number of options when we search for new opportunities. With greater clarity about the fundamental aspects of a job that will be a good fit – and, critically, the aspects that will not – an individual is more empowered to seek the right kind of opportunities for them, and the pointed clarifying questions to help them evaluate each new opportunity.
Clearer, more authentic language. Most people know the feeling of fumbling for words during interviews or introductions – particularly when describing themselves. After taking the time to explore and understand motivational data, an individual has a new set of language to describe themselves clearly, accurately and specifically.
More confident decision-making. It is easy to second-guess our decisions – especially the high-stakes decisions we make in our careers. But when an individual feels grounded in a deep understanding of their motivations, they can make decisions with a higher level of confidence and conviction.
Read on for answers from presenters David Ringwood and Andrew Rand to questions from our webinar attendees.
Questions & Answers
COACHING QUESTIONS: FINDING & EVALUATING NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Q: What is the right time to consider a career transition?
Q: When evaluating a new opportunity, how can someone assess things like organizational culture before they have accepted the job?
Q: Do you have any tips for the new PhD looking for that first non-academic job? Most have no knowledge of industry options other than research.
Q: What advice would you have for a client who is about to take a promotion that will definitely not suit their motivational profile, but will meet their financial needs? How do you suggest clients balance emotional and motivational drivers with rational drivers like compensation?
Q: Can this tool assist people who are finished with their fulltime career, but have a couple of decades they desire to be productive?
Q: What advice do you have for a client with a large blind spot – being strongly influenced by what her parents expect from her, rather than what she wants for herself? She has recently lost a position at the company she had been with for two decades. How does the Motivation & Career Report help her uncover what she wants and needs?
Q: Is the IDI based on, or correlated with, the Big 5?
Q: How does the IDI Motivation & Career Report differ from something like Gallup’s Strength Finder?
Q: Given that the IDI scores may change over time, if someone has taken the IDI in the past, how long (generally) will that data be valid before you would suggest re-taking the assessment?
SCIENCE & RESEARCH
Q: David named an effect that causes us people to take more notice of the negative aspects of a job than the positive ones. What was that scientific effect called?
Q: Does the study you referenced out the rate of job change include changing jobs outside of the current organization? Or does it include new job within same company?
Yes, these data included people changing jobs within the same organization. You can reference the original study here.
Q: I’ve been reading Boyatzis’ new book, Helping People Change. He is incorporating research from neuroscience into his approach. Following the results of neuroscience research, he rejects the idea of going back to the past as it holds back the individual from moving forward. He argues that there is a negativity to this behavior. How would you respond to this?