Perfection Isn’t Perfect at Work: Here’s Why

Notepad And Crumpled Paper Balls

Most of us view success myopically.

It is a common bias.

We often view the end result (a successful book, project or product) — and hold misconceptions that the path to that end was without flaw.

However, most paths are ripe with snags and changes in direction.

They are imperfect. So are the people that forge those paths.

If we all could accept our own imperfect paths (and lose the expectation to become perfect), we’d likely approach our careers differently. We’d possibly accept more risk — or enter uncharted territory more often. However, we are often more critical (and unforgiving) when we consider our own mistakes.

If you’ve been told you are a “perfectionist”(or suspect this trait)  — you’ve likely experienced this and more. You may push yourself too hard, offer yourself scathing reviews when errors occur and fret at the notion of being evaluated. These scenarios can become wrought with frustration. (Perfectionism can have deep roots. If you feel you the need for clinical help, please seek out a trusted therapist).

Here are a few questions and answers concerning perfectionism applied to our work lives.

Is perfectionism affecting my work negatively? You would know better than anyone if perfectionism is getting in the way — and the signs can be lost in our everyday lives. If you’ve become overly risk-adverse because of the fear of an error or being evaluated — or you frequently experience “analysis paralysis”, it may be time to tackle this head on. Just know that working to achieve task perfection is a little like repeating yourself in conversation. Nothing new is added to the mix. Try to move on and test your results of recommendations to break the ice.

Is there a pattern? Often we have certain “triggers” that bring on perfectionistic behaviors. Some of us feel perfectionism creeping in when we are embarking on a new path or challenge. Others when we might be compared to others. Be aware of your unique responses and attempt to intervene.

Is perfectionism related to procrastination? You bet. When we put things off to avoid being judged or evaluated, they live side by side. This can lead to even more frustration.

Can it hold me back? That depends — and trust in your environment plays a strong role in this dynamic. For example, if you never share a promising idea because it is not perfected, you (and your team) could be missing out on key opportunities. The experts on creativity at Pixar encourage their employees to share ideas much sooner in the creative process and this can lead to feeling uncomfortable. But this also allows contributors to build on ideas together. Attempt (within reason) to share what you have to offer. Start small and don’t use perfection as the lever.

Can I get it under control? The answer is yes. However, be patient with your progress — as old workplace habits often die a long protracted death. Learning to accept some level of failure is likely a part of this process. (Perfectionism can be stubborn and toxic.) Be mindful of irrational fears and try stop the cycle when you see it begin to spin. Learning to let go of the reigns can be challenge — and you must be kind to yourself if you hit a dead-end.

I always think of Sandra Bullock and her very public “fail”in 2010. She might have hidden from her public embarrassment, when she won the infamous “Razzie”for her work in All About Steve. (The same year she won the Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side.) Instead she chose to approach her imperfect performance with levity and humor. Somehow she drew upon her past successes for courage. (I don’t think I could have mustered the courage).

Her Razzie award acceptance speech was a defining moment in self-acceptance. (See it here).

I’d say that was a winning strategy.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

It’s No Secret: Here’s Why Organizations Lose Their Best People

Businesswoman Awkwardly Bending over Yellow Counter

I’ve written previously concerning why people and organizations struggle to change. When we miss opportunities to do so — we fail to unlock an enormous amount of potential.

Organizations also stand to lose talent along the way.

There is one enduring theme that must be acknowledged and added to the conversation. Organizations are made up of human beings. As human beings, we often struggle to let go of old frameworks. Companies dealing with persistent people problems such as low engagement, depleted morale or rising turnover — also struggle to make progress — and there is a clear reason why this is the case.

Let me elaborate.

If there is a single, worrisome story that I observe it is the following:

Company discovers great thing. Company engages with great thing. Company begins to rest on its laurels concerning great thing. Company neglects great thing. Company eventually loses great thing. Company begins to decline.

Sadly we are not talking about customers or products — this story is about people. (Please know that I do not view people as “things”.)

We need to grasp that lamenting declining people-centric metrics will not solve people-centric problems. Identifying sub-groups of contributors in the gravest danger of jumping ship — is not the answer. Quantifying the high cost of turnover, is not the answer. (See a great discussion addressing employee engagement here.)

The answer lies in action. The advice is simple.

Invest in people.

Invest in their experiences (from on-boarding to departure).

Invest in their aspirations.

Invest in open conversations.

Invest in their development.

Invest in their managers.

Invest in their observations.

Invest in their ideas.

Invest in their concerns.

Invest in their successes.

In many cases, the most powerful solution is taking that first step.

Start now. Start small. I encourage you do so.

Has your organization recently taken that first (or second) step? Please share your strategies in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

Leaving Space For the Potential You

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“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Career exploration really begins within our own imaginations — well before we utter a single word or visit a job board. We consider where we currently find ourselves and where we’d like to go, trying on jobs and titles and experiences in the process.

It’s a very quick exercise within our mind’s eye. However, it is a vital step in the career growth dynamic.

How we visualize ourselves in the future matters.

I happened to be reading about mindfulness yesterday, particularly discussions about carving out space between a stimulus that we encounter and our reaction to it. (See a discussion of the one-second rule here.) Research has revealed that taking a moment to suspend making a decision, forming an opinion or choosing a behavior, can have a significant impact upon our work lives.

That has me thinking about our initial responses as we consider our own abilities or potential.

Conventional thinking tells us that all human beings seek pleasure and avoid pain. Yet research has shown that our own regulatory focus — or the way we typically approach risk plays a role. (Some of us are more naturally promotion focused and embrace more risk; others choose a safer path and are more naturally prevention focused).

So, do you dismiss yourself too quickly? Pass over a path that may be fruitful long-term because of the risk or disruption involved? Do you have moments where you consider ourselves in a non-reactive way?

Does a prevention focus hold you back? (Read more about that here.)

We can’t build careers if we don’t fully consider all of the possibilities. Yes, there are risks. But, we can be aware of our reactions to those risks and manage the associated fear.

If you respond with an immediate “nay” when contemplating a pivot or challenge, be mindful of your own natural tendency in that regard. When you pause at that window of possibility — envision yourself succeeding, not drowning — and see what that brings. Keep your desire to prevent failure in check.

I challenge you to hold on to the possibilities just a bit longer.

See what you do next.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

Are You Experiencing a “Crisis of Contribution”?

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No matter your age, area of expertise, breadth experience or career path — there are fundamental components of work life that cannot be negotiated.

When doubt surrounds these non-negotiable elements, we can experience a host of negative emotions. (Reading this post by Sally Blount helped my thoughts on the matter coalesce.)

One such component, is the belief that we are making a worthy contribution. Call this meaningfulness, call this worth, call this task significance, call it anything you like. When you feel as if you are not making a difference — key aspects of work life, such as energy and engagement can be threatened. (See this APA post about the “why” of our work.)

Let’s call this dynamic a “Crisis of Contribution”.

When you explore career paths that no longer motivate contributors, this dynamic is often expressed. On some level, the individual feels that their dedication and hard work fail to bring outcomes they deem valuable to their “work self”. This becomes quite draining — and forces their hand to pursue some kind of resolution or change.

You’ll find this dynamic rearing its ugly head in a number of situations. So — keep an eye out and explore possible adjustments.

Here are a few examples:

  • You do not have an effective voice. Whether you are holding back because of self-doubt, prevailing circumstances or you are hearing a clear message to “tone it down” and take a back seat — having the opportunity to express your perspective fully is crucial to a happy work life. When this path is stifled — feelings of frustration, resentment and disengagement likely follow.
  • What you bring cannot be applied. Sometimes your leading strengths, skill or ideas still cannot make a difference simply because the situation is inflexible. Whether there are extreme time, people or budget constraints — your solutions aren’t being considered. This can create a painful work-related depression, so to speak. At some point, you shut down entirely.
  • You have concerns that your skill set isn’t the right fit. When we start a new role, there is often doubt that we have the “right stuff” to make a difference. (Which is a completely normal thought.) Even with well established careers — contributors harbor doubts that they have the skills and experience to make a strong contribution.
  • Your work isn’t ringing true. When your contribution is valued by others, but no longer has meaning for you,  it is also time to pause and take stock. For example, I’ve spoken to individuals who realized they are now playing in the wrong “career field”. Either they had evolved, the field had evolved or a combination thereof. As a result, an adjustment was in order.

For now ask the following questions and reflect on your answers:

  1. Have you noticed a decrease in opportunities to express your opinions or apply valued expertise to your work? How has this affected you?
  2. Have you sensed a shift in feeling connected to products or outcomes?
  3. Do you no longer identify with serving your customers or clients?
  4. Do you find another role appealing or intriguing? Why are to drawn to the role?

Have you experienced a “Crisis of Contribution”? Did you move on?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

How to Survive When Challenging People Knock You Off Your Game

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No one relishes the thought of meeting the client, colleague or supervisor whose mere mention will become synonymous with pain. However, challenging people (and the situations they create) are a work life fact.

Chances are high that you will encounter one of these individuals along the way. When you’ve landed in a tight spot with someone who just isn’t playing fair — it can feel like a tidal wave of emotions.

Unfortunately, the experience can leave us feeling off balance and not quite like ourselves.

This can become an overwhelming experience.

Feeling undermined or attacked is traumatic and emotions run high. (This si completely normal.) Most of us will immediately formulate an internal counter-attack or argument. However the opportunity for this play out in real life, is often dependent on the existing power dynamic. In some cases, we simply have to process the situation to move through it.

If you are not in the position to openly respond  — or directly defend yourself — you can be left with disturbing after-effects. We might feel a little “hung-over” or dazed. Ultimately, encountering toxic people can affect our ability to thrive in the workplace. This is a real and present danger. So we must address the situation quickly.

Here is a bit of advice to wade through the fall-out:

  • Psychologically separate. The first thing to protect is your work life well-being. This may require applying mindfulness techniques to observe the situation from a safer psychological distance. Most human beings have a powerful response to extreme negative feedback — so ensure that your emotions (and feelings of worth) are not hijacked or destroyed. Think of things this way: What if the situation happened to a friend or co-worker? What advice would you offer them?
  • Seek support. Touch base with a trusted colleague or supervisor to share your experience and gain some perspective. Knowing that you have support, will help your resolve and deter doubts from taking a foothold.
  • Learn from the experience. A post-mortem review might be challenging — especially when you feel you are not at fault. However, reviewing the entire story to identify where things may have gone off the rails (and to revise future strategy) is warranted. Subtle cues can provoke someone who is already difficult to work with. Protect yourself going forward.
  • Exit the battlefield. If you feel your reputation may be at stake, attempt to exit the dynamic entirely. Request another colleague to cover the client or complete unfinished project work. Sometimes, more exposure only breeds more trouble.
  • Focus on resilience-building. Learning strategies that help us bounce back are critical. Protecting our psychological resources should be an ever-present concern. Situations where we feel misunderstood or attacked can have long-standing effects.
  • Give things time. The surprise of the initial shock will fade. However, how you process the experience will matter longer-term. You will change as a contributor — but hopefully you will also emerge wiser, stronger and better prepared.

How have you dealt with unreasonable individuals in your work life? Share your strategies here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. She is a Consulting Psychologist at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

What’s On My Desk: Nothing Beats the Trusted Notebook

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Throughout much of my career I’ve opted to carry a notebook.

Before that time — I would literally jot things down here, there and everywhere. This quickly became a problem. So, an executive decision to centralize my thoughts was in order. My own form of “idea GPS” has proven to be a wise insurance policy. (Moments of clarity deserve to be recorded before they vanish.)

Notebooks have so much to offer, including a dose of balance to our ever-growing online lives. They are easy companions and can accompany you on business trips, vacations and rare moments of solitude. I suppose other methods might prove to be superior in certain situations. However, there is nothing like putting pen to paper. The physical process of writing helps to commit information to long-term memory and can aid idea development. Any easily attainable advantage is worth the trouble.

Da Vinci utilized notebooks and that alone is good reason to employ one. He often used mirror-writing — but don’t let that deter you.

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I’ve carried standard spiral notebooks (I enjoy college logos). However, today there are so many interesting choices that I splurge on notebooks that catch my eye. They can become a “statement” piece. The purchase is an everyday luxury, not unlike a really great cup of coffee or a high-quality down blanket.

My notebook habit may seem old fashioned. However, it’s a habit I don’t intend to break. Recently I’ve been exploring Evernote, which seems to be a natural choice for an obsessive note taker such as myself. (So we’ll see what develops there.) However, I have some quirky habits that would have to be captured. For example, glancing at my current notebook “system”, there are project notes and “to do” lists at the front and interview notes toward the back, dated with contact phone numbers. On the very last page, I keep a running “playlist” of new songs to note on YouTube.

I’m sure your system is equally as quirky. However, notebooks are very forgiving.

Below you’ll find a list of interesting options.

I hope you find a notebook that can help your great ideas come to life.

Classics:

Moleskine: Here’s a classic pocket version. (You can learn more or purchase by clicking on the icon.)*

Rhodia: Here’s a great option for meetings.*

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Modern:

esmie: Lovely British inspired florals.
http://www.esmie.co.uk/type/notebooks

Fabulous Cat Papers on Etsy: Beautiful embroidered covers.
https://www.etsy.com/listing/174605052/blooming-branch-embroidered-a6-notebook?ref=shop_home_active_10

Joy Tree Journals: Here’s one beautiful option.*

Zazzle: https://www.zazzle.com/s/notebooks

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Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

*This denotes an affiliate link through Amazon. I’m often emailed concerning recommendations — so I’ve made a few “picks” for you. The icon makes it simple.

What You Need to Know About Yourself to Help You With Workplace Change

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I’ve been told (more than once) that I’m not the best role model concerning change. To be candid, I thoroughly agree with the characterization.

I balk at the mere whiff of a change — holding on to hope that it won’t ever come to pass. (Then adjusting my course will not be necessary.) Honestly, it’s a problem.

As you may have read in this post, I’ve struggled with even the smallest of changes. — muddling along until the “new normal”finally appears. Until that moment, I feel annoyed and out of sync. For better or worse, my “go to” reaction is to keep things frozen — until I can carefully consider every aspect of the situation.

Unfortunately, holding time at bay usually isn’t an option.

Regardless, I firmly acknowledge the value of flexing our workplace “change muscles”. But knowing ourselves is likely the very first place to look when building this skill set. I believe that we all have a leading predisposition when faced with change at work — and this represents both our collected experiences and temperament. Of course, this influences our leading strategy when reacting to change as well. That’s where things get tricky. (If you manage others, just reflect on what this means for your team.) We need to come to an understanding of our own tendency and recognize how this affects our response.

The realization that we tend toward one or the another, is a crucial step. I’m sure we moderate slightly with the nature of the change — but we all lean one way or another.

Here are the predispositions I’ve observed over the years:

  • Piners or Grievers. These individuals lament the coming of change, even when it is inevitable or necessary. They may grieve for the roles, policies, procedures and co-workers of days gone by. They do move on eventually — but often with decreased fulfillment, satisfaction and a measure of sadness.
  • Researchers. An unbridled penchant to gather information is the leading response for this group — as looking at the issue from all angles often helps them move on. Unfortunately, a leading by-product of this view is “analysis paralysis”. Another issue: time may not be a negotiable. (This would be where I fall, although I pine at the very start.)
  • Supporters or Embracers. These individuals are generally open to change and feel excited to contemplate the future. They may not be the primary driver of change, yet are happy to see the possibilities and help things move forward.
  • Alarmists. For these individuals an impending change triggers intense feelings of urgency. This could lead to premature or risky career behaviors that negatively affect them longer-term. (Such as quitting on a whim, etc.)
  • Dreamers. This group always manages to see the best in the current situation, even when there is overwhelming evidence to move on and accept some kind of change. (I would add there is a mild level of complacency operating here). Because of this perspective, they might miss opportunities to properly plan a place for themselves in the new “order” of things.
  • Observers. Usually quiet and calm, these individuals take a solid “wait and see” approach. They rarely panic — and prefer to watch things unfold organically. They might superficially support the change, but may eventually exit if the change is perceived as negative.
  • Aggressors or Terminators. These individuals feel anger when they are faced with an unexpected change. They may become a strong “naysayer”, vehemently opposing a change and could exhibit negative behaviors without reflection.

After I drafted these, I searched for other frameworks that capture how we process change. I happened upon the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which applies the seminal model of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross concerning grief, to change efforts within organizations. (This theory states that we all move through specified phases when dealing with change, rather than identifying a leading emotion that we deal with over time.) I thought it wise to mention it here.

Where do you fall? Have I missed your leading orientation toward change? Share your style in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. She is a Consulting Psychologist at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

Recognizing Overload

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As human beings we often forget that we are fragile.

We push well beyond our limits, forgetting what we require to stay productive. We make promises we shouldn’t — and say “yes” far too often.

I think you’ll share my opinion that we all fall prey to this dynamic at one time or another. No one is immune. So, it is with great remorse that I admit that yesterday Power Point caused my “undoing”. (The details are unimportant. However, my response was another story.)

I’m not speaking of a brief moment of aggravation with an accompanying quick recovery. I refer to a full-blown toddler moment, where I fantasized about throwing down my pen, flipping my desk and slipping away into the madding crowd. It was an unusual reaction and I took note of it. (This reminded me of a holiday shopping trip with one of my boys. As the stroller passed the toy department, there were nearly 1000 Barney dinosaurs mounted on the store pillars. This provoked a fit of unchecked screaming like no other I can recall.)

To be fair, this is what I was feeling.

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But, hold on. I’m not going to move to guilt and outright embarrassment.

I’ve realized this auspicious moment had nothing to do with Power Point “un-saving” my work. It was delivered courtesy of the stress (both inside and outside of work) that had accumulated — much like peeling layers of toxic lead paint.

I’m sure this has happened to you. A response far out of sync with what has actually happened.

This begins with emotional and/or physical exhaustion. This comes with over-extending your nervous system. This is related to not feeding your ying or ego, or whatever part of your psyche that may be starving. It can come from trying your very hardest to ensure things will go well and they still go awry.

Yes, this is life.

However, it remains awfully difficult to digest at times.

Most of us fail to recognize when we are at the brink — much less take action to move away from that brink.

Here is what you should do if you find yourself peering over the edge:

  1. Explore methods of self-support, which my clinical counterparts strongly recommend.
  2. Add a healthy dose of mindfulness to your daily routine.
  3. Feed your “musical” soul. Listen to the music that helps you feel “lifted” and inspired.
  4. Indulge a hobby. (I find hobbies a distraction from my core career goals. However, healthy distraction are just that — healthy!)
  5. Dwell on the positive signs of forward career evolution.
  6. Thoughtfully reminisce about the people that you have enjoyed working worked with recently (and why).
  7. Read for one hour each day. Getting lost in the thoughts and experiences of others can change our perspective.
  8. Learn from your mistakes. List the situations that didn’t end the way you had hoped. Develop strategies to to change that course, if presented again.
  9. Take a side path. Learn something new. (Scroll through the options Udemy or Lynda.com) We all have the capacity to evolve for the better.
  10. If you feel you need professional help, do so. Reach out. There are wonderful resources ou there that can serve on your career “Board of Directors”.

This is only a start — and personally I hope to avoid a repeat occurrence.

But, no guarantees.

I forget myself sometimes.

I’m only human.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

What the Pollster’s Mistakes Can Teach Us About Predicting Behavior at Work

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I often wonder if I’m getting it right. Are we posing the right questions? Are the right employees responding? Are we obtaining a clear picture of what is really happening within an organization? Based upon the available data, will valuable employees remain engaged? Will they walk away?

What am I missing?

Each time I examine diagnostic results, I obsess over these questions.

When we consider how wrong the vast majority of pollsters were in predicting the outcome of the Presidential election, I quake in my boots. The Atlantic, skillfully takes us through why things went woefully wrong — and poses an unnerving question we must all contemplate when making data-based predictions concerning human behavior:

Did we all believe Clinton would win because of bad data, or did we ignore bad data because we believed Clinton would win?

Yes, confirmation bias may have played a role here. When we become too sure of any future outcome, we essentially stop considering the other potential end points.npr

We must also consider technique. One polling organization, the USC Dornslife/LA Times Election Poll seemed to have the ability to capture what was really happening. Interestingly, their methods were a departure from other polls, with a stable panel of 3200, from which daily polls were pulled. Moreover, they considered the likelihood of an individual actually voting. So, in essence, the poll attempted to measure both sentiment and behavior. This is how they explain it:

…we calculate a ratio of a person’s likelihood of voting for a specific candidate to his or her estimated chance of voting.

So, let’s jump to the business of predicting how employees feel and behave in the workplace. What we can learn from the inability of the polls (and the candidates) to predict voting behavior?

  • Bias abounds. There I said it. As human beings we are indeed flawed as decision-makers and we often see what we want to see. If you think your organization, or team, or employee is in a good place — do not think for even a moment that this comes with a long-term, “forever” guarantee. Try to build “bias” protection into your decision-making processes.
  • Explore the small shifts. I’ve learned that where there is smoke there is fire. If your organization is growing rapidly or is undergoing a significant change effort, pay particular attention to trending sentiments.
  • Consider who might be silent, but resolute. There are always individuals who have formed strong opinions and have already planned their future steps (and they do not feel the need to consider your opinion). This could be your star employee, who has observed over time that their path (or perceived value or respect) is “less than”.
  • Time can erode your core base. Consider how time and events might impact your core. Elements such as stress and burnout can influence just as many departures as a lack of engagement. Consider how history might affect even your most dependable people. (Consider Wisconsin. Or Michigan, for that matter.)

Have you ever been wrong when predicting behavior? Share your observations here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

What Type of Career Growth Are You Seeking?

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In today’s world, career paths have been described as “boundaryless“. We build careers and seek fulfillment by collecting varies experiences — across organizations, supervisors and work content. What we are seeking growth-wise at specific points will often guide our direction.

Ultimately, we seek situations that offer alignment with our current career vision.

Through years of speaking to individuals about work and career, I have observed combinations of elements (such as challenge vs. stability) that describe growth “states”. We flux in and out of these states, depending on our goals (both in and out of work). Some contributors seem comfortable remaining in one state for an extended period of time, while others might shift to meet their evolving needs.

Career Growth States

  • Future Forward. In this state, we may hold a role aligned with our education and experience — yet there is often another career step in your “back pocket” that serves as a  longer-term, motivating goal. Whether this entails preparation for a pivot or perhaps becoming an entrepreneur — we are firmly focused miles ahead. Gaining skills to ensure the dream comes alive is an imperative. Organizations can contribute by building foundation skills and an instrumental network.
  • Creative Calibration. This trajectory can involve a single direction or path, as long as we have the opportunity to add or delete tasks/content that meets our need for challenge. We might incorporate a constant flow of industry research or expand our “mission” to create more interest. Appropriate expansion of the horizon is critical to avoid disengagement — and multiple benefits can be realized.
  • Progressive State. While here, we desire build a new “morphed” career path, integrating novel or disruptive elements (such as technology) smack into our area of expertise. We allow skills to co-exist that others may never envision together and this helps drive us forward. A high tolerance for ambiguity likely co-exists here, with a healthy dose of “progressive ambition”— as the steps of this path reveal themselves only as time goes on.
  • Steady-State. Healthy stability is the name of the game here. Contributors desire a specific role, maintaining a strong, singular path for an extended period of time. We are less likely to job hop, but would move along with a specific group of contributors focused on an area of interest. Working on longer-term initiatives is often the hallmark.

Above all, knowing thyself is critical. Individual contributors (and organizations alike) should build awareness concerning how our own needs — and how individual needs can evolve over time.

To explore your growth state needs, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you leaning toward stability or challenge at this point in time?
  2. Recall a time when you were satisfied with your career growth. How did your growth needs align with your role?
  3. Think of a time when you were frustrated, overwhelmed or disappointed with your path. What was happening?
  4. Have your growth needs tended to shift significantly over time or have they remained constant?
  5. Do you lean towards being proactive or relatively passive where career growth is concerned?
  6. How might voicing your needs, affect your job choices?

So — where are you? Have I missed a growth state? Share your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.