Many people go through life doing a job to meet their financial needs, without enjoying their work and without fulfillment. A recent ACT College Choice Report shows that only 1 out of 3 high school graduating students are planning on college majors that are a good fit with their interests. It’s good to know where you are heading before you shell out big bucks for a college education. When I was in high school considering college, no one provided this type of guidance to me.
“Determining to live your life to the fullest, to follow your dreams and express yourself is the greatest gift you can give to those you love – and to yourself.”
– Laurence Boldt, How to Find the Work you Love
I believe you can earn a good living and do the work you truly love. But it took me many years to figure that out. I had a lot of help along the way.
My purpose here is to share how I came to that understanding, and to provide you with the tools and insights to help you do the same. It starts with a career assessment.
Are you in the right job now? Take this short career assessment questionnaire and see how you score.
The Flower Diagram
The famous Flower Diagram is at the heart of doing a career assessment. The Flower Diagram is an important concept developed by the father of career consulting, Richard Bolles. He writes the classic best seller, “What Color is Your Parachute,” now in its 42nd edition (!) since its original release in 1970. It depicts the key dimensions of a career choice.
Understanding the Flower Diagram
Geography – This refers to where you work. That includes factors such as climate, surroundings, local culture and commuting distance.
Skills – This is at the heart of your career choice and appropriately appears in the center. What are the skills you most enjoy using and are best at?
Fields of Interest – This is about the subjects or content that interests you. Working with topics or things that interest you will increase your job satisfaction and make your days enjoyable.
People – The people you work with are a major determinant of job satisfaction and enjoyment. This pertains to both your co-workers and others outside your company with whom you interact.
Values, Purposes, Goals – This is an essential consideration. Many people don’t think about what purpose they are serving; they might view their jobs as only a way to make money and support themselves. Research shows that people who are serving a higher purpose and companies that stress this lead to more satisfied employees.
Working Conditions – This refers to the physical environment, stress, amenities, safety and the like.
Salary and Level of Responsibility – Obviously this is an important factor to consider in your career. Most people focus on this first and foremost, but miss the bigger picture of the entire Flower Diagram. High salary doesn’t always equal high job satisfaction.
“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.”
Career Assessment Tools
I highly recommend you read these two excellent books, even if you are reasonably sure about your career path: “What Color is Your Parachute” and “How to Find the Work You Love,” by Laurence Boldt.
Boldt’s book is inspiring and insightful. He helps you discover what is important and enjoyable to you, and how to integrate that into a career that you will love. So many people do work just for the money, not enjoyment. Read Boldt and find the work you love!
In his book, Bolles suggests that you take a whole weekend to complete your initial Flower Diagram. I believe that is well worth it, given the importance to your life. For those less patient or less analytical, it can be done in a few hours. Before each of my children decided on their college majors, I walked them through the Flower Diagram. It helped them zero in on possible career starting points and associated college majors. They each took a few hours on the process. They both went into industrial engineering and are still doing engineering related work seven and nine years after graduation. Their roles have morphed and they use different skills, but their engineering problem solving and thinking skills are still at the core of what they do.
Career assessment is an iterative process, starting with introspection, then refining it based on inputs from others and your own experiences. Your answers will likely change over your career so it’s good to reassess from time to time.
If you are ready to embark on a career transition, go here.