Career-crisis: Is all your job-hunt ‘doing’ stopping you from reflecting?

How to find answers to the question: "What do you want to do?"

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Career-crisis: Is all your job-hunt ‘doing’ stopping you from reflecting on what roles would actually suit you?

Work’s not fulfilling any more, you need a change, you’ve started scouring, but somehow there’s been no breakthrough. What’s missing?

It could be quiet, serious, useful reflection. Diligently ploughing through to-do lists can make us feel better even when the tasks we tick off aren’t really moving us forward. It’s easy to spend ages ‘doing’ advert-scanning, email-chasing and tackling lengthy job applications, but have you invested proper thought into the sort of work that fits the way you look at life?

We underestimate and probably neglect the art of reflection. How often do you take time away from smart screens and just ponder? Not daydreaming (though that’s important too), but pondering whether you’re barking up the right tree in deciding on your next ‘phase’ in life.

Reflection involves being honest about your values, what you believe in, what motivates you and therefore what kind of work and environment is most likely to make you leap out of bed. We typically work for over 10,000 days (many more if you work straight out of school), so it’s worth peeling back the layers of ‘you’ before rushing into positions that only tick money, status and progression boxes. You want those 10,000 days to be pretty good, and you don’t want to lose 2,000 of them trying to find your way.

You realise the value of proper reflection when someone asks: ‘So what do you want to do? It’s not easy to answer if you’re not clear who you are and what your experiences have taught you.

Ask yourself this:

1.Is there someone, living or gone, who’s been a powerful influence on you? What is it about them or what they did that’s been influential? What have you done - or do you intend to do - as a result?

2.Think of a time recently when you were at your best. What happened and what allowed you to be this way?

3.Can you think of a time when your gut instinct influenced a decision?

4.When you walk into a room to meet a potential employer or business partner, how do you want to come across?

5.Think of a time when life hasn’t been great or a result hasn’t gone your way. What did you learn? What positive thing can you take away from it?

If you find these hard to answer, then finding the answer to “what do you want to do?” will be even trickier…

Signature Strengths
And this brings us to ‘signature strengths’. These sit at the heart of most career crises because they’re something that you own, as opposed to something that is imposed, they’re unique to you and most people haven’t given them much thought.

1.Your skills, knowledge, expertise, talent and experience. What are you really good at?

2.Your passions – what are the things you love doing most? Not interests or hobbies, but real passions.

3.Your life experience, circumstances and opportunities to date. How has your ‘story’ so far affected your choices and attitude to work?

4.Your personal qualities: your attitude, your character (and how you like to work), your energy. Many organisations say, “Give me a person who has the right energy to fit in with my team. We can teach skills and help them acquire knowledge, but we can’t instil a type of energy in someone – you either have it or you don’t.” Your energy is related to your curiosity and ultimately, your confidence.

5.Your values and beliefs. How were you brought up? Do your values match those of the organisation or people you’re currently working with?

6.Your motivator, your ‘currency’: what do you need most? This often changes at different points in your life but you always have a dominant ‘driving’ need. And it’s more likely to be stability, recognition or independence than just money. Being honest about what motivates you most helps to focus your attention away from a host of less suitable career options.

So, once you start reflecting on “what am I suited to?”, rather than “what jobs are out there?”, you may find yourself approaching your search for meaningful work from a whole new direction. Don’t forget, you’re the author of your life. Happy pondering!


Zena James

Writer, Eyes Wide Opened, -

Zena and the team at Eyes Wide Opened are on a mission to help people become crystal clear about what really makes them tick, what they have to offer an employer and how they can offer it. They set aside the less helpful 'What do you want to do?' and ''What job are you looking for?' questions (which can only really be answered if you have an inbuilt career path GPS) and instead help people find the answers to 'Who are you?', 'What do you stand for?' and 'What really matters to to you?' Eyes Wide Opened - - was founded in 2011 by Alastair Creamer, a leading figure in creative training (Catalyst, Creamer and Lloyd) and Paul Preston, a former Unilever chairman and global talent & HR leader. The duo developed a series of intensive, practical and reflective courses for people at a career crossroads with input from businesses on what they're really looking for from their recruits. The eight coaches have eclectic backgrounds spanning business, the voluntary sector, the arts, academia and even Scotland Yard! ------------------ Web: Twitter: @ewopened Facebook: Eyes Wide Opened


Go to the profile of Suzy Walker
over 7 years ago
Wow, this is fantastic! If only I'd spent some time reflecting on these questions when I left college. It took me 5 years to find my feet and the courage to go to London to study a three month course in journalism.
Go to the profile of Scott Peltin
over 7 years ago
Great blog Zena and very good reflection questions. Perhaps the skill of reflection should be one of the R's taught in school at all levels. It is probably an under developed skill in so many people. Thanks for keeping our eyes wide open.