Career, Job Search

Engineer Your Career Passion

Most people want to be satisfied and fulfilled by their work. What we do for work and thinking about our career is a central focus for most of my learners, colleagues, friends, and family. And why not? Our jobs take up our time, focus our priorities, or at least have our attention — as we spend  an average of 13 years of our life at work. Asking individuals to find their “career callings” is a stressful task. How can you find great work you love, when really you need a job to be functional, realistic, and something you can obtain? Finding a “job you love” may not pay the bills, support your needs, and be something you can do at the moment. Work can be fun, but not all work is. And, sometimes a job is just a job — it might be a job to support yourself and family, that is in the right geographic location, be the first step in your career, or just something you’re doing right now while you try to figure out the next steps to take in your professional life.

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That being said, many people seek meaning and purpose in their world of work. Which might be something that may never happen. Maybe we’re putting too much emphasis on this job fulfillment. Whether it is millennial burnout or workism as our professional identity, there seems to be no shortage of folks discussing and writing about the topic careers and work life these days. I appreciated how Elizabeth Gilbert breaks down how we think about our careers in a Hello Monday interview, specifically how we might confuse these four aspects of our life when it comes to reflecting on our work life:

  1. Hobby: Is something you do because you enjoy it and you don’t need anything back for it. It’s fun and you delight in it.
  2. Job: A thing you have because everyone has to have one. It doesn’t need to fulfill your emotional needs because it’s there to pay the bills and you have a life outside your job that is more interesting (e.g. family, hobbies, pursuits, etc.)
  3. Career: Should be something you are passionate about (mostly). A career is a job that you deeply care about.
  4. Vocation: A sacred calling of something that is very holy to you that is the center of your life that can never be taken away from you no matter what.

This framework presents ideas around careers vs. callings, specifically outlining what you do and how you do. In the span of your work life, you might find yourself in anyone or all four of these areas to find fulfillment OR to support your career planning.  Listen to the full podcast episode HERE.

Sometimes how we craft our work and leisure time leaves many professional unsatisfied by not answering their career callings and leading to professional regret (Berg, Grant, & Johnson, 2010). This synopsis by Gilbert is not entirely wrong. Our job attitudes and meaning-making at work is highly predictive of how individuals thrive and contribute to their organizations of employment (Wrzesniewski, 2003), specifically when job crafting in service of purpose is encouraged and supports the well-being of the employee (Tims, Bakker, & Derks, 2013). Each semester I teach a course in personal/professional development, where my learners go through modules to figure out their own trajectory for their academic and career path. Some are first-generation, first time in college students; whereas others have years of experience in their profession and are looking to finish a 4-year degree to advance, transition to a new career, and more. I know that identifying career callings and directions are challenging. So I typically do NOT give the traditional advice to “find your passion.” I think passions are often developed and created as we gain employment experience, learn more about ourselves, and find opportunities for discovery in the wold of work.

I know that I am not alone in this thinking

Listen to the recent WorkLife with Adam Grant podcast: The Perils of Following your Career Passion that shares how the “do what you love” is often terrible career advice.

What will your future work self look like? Do you know what you want to be doing? What can you do now to get you there? Your first job might not make you happy or your next career move might not be your “dream job” — but what will help you learn, grow and enhance YOU for the next step in your professional life? How can you develop your talents and build upon your skills, interest, and abilities? These are the questions I pose to my learners each semester. That is, to really think about what drives you into action and to identify how to these interests to individual skills and talents for work.

In studying unconventional career paths of “dark horses,” Rose and Ogas (2018) found that the pursuit of fulfillment requires work:

“Following your passion takes little effort. Engineering your passion, on the other hand, is a more serious undertaking. It requires that you diligently pursue a deeper understanding of yourself. Engineering passion is hard work-but the benefits are enormous” (pp. 76-77).

I think we all could put more effort into designing and building the career we want. Passion might be part of it, or we might decide this passion is something we do alongside our work life. There is no one standard formula for how our hobby, job, career, and calling exist with one another. Here are a few big questions to consider if you want to start engineering your career passion to create a fulfilling work experience and to support your future work self:

  • Legacy:
    • Where do you want to make a difference in the world?
    • What do you want to leave behind?
    • How can you start moving towards these goals?
    • Would your 10-year-old self be proud of what you are doing?
  • Mastery:
    • What sort of actions/skills put you into a state of flow?
    • What is something you can focus on for hours?. e.g. you might forget to eat, lose sleep, etc.
    • What knowledge, skills, or abilities do you want to learn?
    • What ways are you challenging yourself to actively improve, practice, or develop?
  • Action:
    • What are you doing (or not doing) today to move your career goals forward?
    • How are you honing your optimal skills and talents for the next job or career transition?
    • What ways are you making time to grow and develop your future work self now?
    • Who might you reach out to to support/advise/mentor with your career development in your organization, industry, and/or professional field?

References:

Berg, J. M., Grant, A. M., & Johnson, V. (2010). When callings are calling: Crafting work and leisure in pursuit of unanswered occupational callings. Organization Science, 21(5), 973-994.
Rose, T., & Ogas, O. (2018). Dark horse: Achieving success through the pursuit of fulfillment. HarperOne.
Tims, M., Bakker, A. B., & Derks, D. (2013). The impact of job crafting on job demands, job resources, and well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(2), 230-240.
Wrzesniewski, A. (2003). Finding positive meaning in work. In K. Cameron & J. Dutton (eds.) Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, pp. 296-308.
Career, Reflections, Workplace

What’s Your “Ideal” Job?

Have you ever been asked to describe your “ideal” job? Sometimes this comes up in a traditional job interview.  Or perhaps you had someone (a teacher, family member, or friend) just ask you about your career goals. Have you thought about what sort of work drives you? Do you know what sort of “job” you are looking for in your field that best fits you? How does work design impact what you do daily? What inspires you in your day-to-day work? How do you prefer to function and perform?
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These are questions I have asked my students for years. We spend a lot of time in the world of work. So, it’s a natural to want to know about goals and purpose as a student discusses courses in an academic advising appointment. And it is even more intentional as I have worked with undecided majors and first-year students (undergraduate and graduate) to help with their career exploration journey. This semester I am instructing LTEC 3010: Personal Development (a scaled up version that I promise to blog about soon), where we dive into these specific issues (follow #LTEC3010):
  • Determining avenues to find a job and planning your career
  • Preparing for the workforce: job search, interviews, resumes, applications, etc.
  • Getting started at your new job: dress, etiquette, digital identity, etc.
  • Being productive: Managing stress and time effectively, & working with others
  • Developing your career: Finding support, connecting to professional organizations, strategies & challenges for moving up the ladder, and seeking out mentorship experiences.
I typically ask my students what their “ideal” job and/or career entails — however until recently I haven’t flipped the tables on myself. After a recent prompt from someone, I decided to list what MY “ideal” interests are for the world of work — specifically targeted towards learning and development.
In general, I am interested in understanding how to build and support the complex learning spaces we work in, specifically, as we consider the connection between formal to informal learning (found among K-12, higher education & the workforce). If I was on a formal job hunt, here are a few items I would be scanning for in the job posting descriptions for, specifically to uncover the culture of an organization:
  • The opportunity to research the challenges/barriers that higher ed faces for our learning landscapes, which includes pedagogy and design of online, blended, and F2F learning. In particular, the issues encounter with HE faculty and staff development, systemic challenges, and student access. Those organizations who are aligned with a similar research agenda, i.e. new ideas of learning, learning delivery, and approaches to educational models impacting us now and in the future, would entice me to apply.
  • The ability to apply research into practice. This means continuing to be active in the field of learning and teaching, through course instruction and/or training & development programs for formal and informal learning. The idea of creating and delivering curriculum to various campus stakeholders who share similar emerging ideas for learning and research is exciting to me.
  • The opportunity for community building and network development to enhance the work of our segregated professional learning organizations that support HE faculty, practitioners, and administrators — specifically distributing knowledge, resources, and issues across these sections of our institutions. I would love to be part of an organization with a broader vision that can offer  t; offering an avenue for social sharing/learning; considering these contributions beyond a space or place (i.e. conference, event, etc.) to allow for on-going dialogues; being a central hub to cross-pollinate ideas and deal with issues
  • Being encouraged to collaborate and support design thinking as a process for innovation within a team across our higher education organizations and/or institutions. In working with a number of talented and thoughtful folks, I have learned the value of incubating ideas to solve problems and work on shared projects. We need to apply this nimble sort of thinking to our learning organization. We need to value both the process and not just the final product, in an environment that values and encourages sharing.

Those are my general thoughts for my future focus for work, and here are a few practical/personal preferences* for my world of work. Here are a few “must haves” for my ideal job:

  • Shared vision with the organization; appropriate cultural fit that supports the above ideas and goals
  • Balance between shared projects and individual assignments
  • Opportunity to continue current research projects and/or contract instructional assignments within higher education and/or learning institutions
  • Flexibility for my work environment, i.e. ability to work within an office and the allowance to be a distributed team member (telecommutes/remote work)
  • Open & available for traveling to consult, work, train, etc.
  • Preference for project-based work vs. a set schedule of hours per day/week, while offering regular updates and progress reports as required
  • Being both challenged and supported on assignment projects and contributions
  • The culture of learning is embedded to the work functions; learning is not just something we talk, research, or do — the organization lives its mandate for all employees (i.e. professional development, mentoring, coaching, etc.)

*Note: I am sure I have other preferences (wants & needs) for a job — but let’s just start with this list and see what is out there first.

Can you describe your “ideal” job? If so, please share!

Learning Community, Rhizo15

Thinking About Communities for Learning {#Rhizo15 Week 5 – Catch Up}

Q: What a #Rhizo15 post? But Laura, I thought the course was over? Is this not true?

A: The #Rhizo15 is never over with a community like this one. #truth

Week 5 poked and prodded at the notion of community for learning, with questions like:

  • How do we make sure there is always room for new and contrarian voices?
  • Do we need to create a them to have a we?
  • How do we cultivate a community learning ecosystem so that it continues to grow outward rather than inward?
  • What does that mean for learning?
  • Must rhizomatic learning be an invasive species?

In my efforts to set up my 10-week Summer courses (why I dropped off the #rhizo15 path as an “active participant” both blogging, tweeting & on the Facebook group), I thought more about how communities can enhance learning, both the informal and formal sides. As I read the #rhizo15 week 5 blog posts and thought a the questions above – it made me consider access and agency to learning – my own and others. Whether it has been a course, certificate, professional meeting or a training seminar — the best experience in learning has been the people and their contributions. The opportunities to dialog and share experiences have lent to stickier and more meaningful learning — for myself and others. There is great knowledge With regards to facilitation and instruction, I would agree with Lisa’s sentiments from week #4 where the fearless #rhizo15 leader, Dave has “chosen words, for every one of his prompts, that are very open to interpretation.” Others interpreted this prompt with metaphors and ideas, including cultivating a garden of learning/teaching, thinking about spontaneous growth, and considering lines of flight for the #rhizo15 course/community.

I agree with these sentiments for my informal learning practices. In a number of my personal learning networks and communities of practice, there are always issues of cultivating a broader network and experience for those involved with learning. It is critical to avoid the online echo chamber when surrounded by like-minded people. This notion of echos in the network vary for #rhizo15 learning community. Some believe this community provides learning support and outlets to challenge the norm, while other community interactions or experiences might be determined by an algorithm. It is important to find ways to challenge and engage the learning community to reflect upon their practice and consider contrary points of view. Sometimes it is a good idea to step back to assess the conversation and learning in the community. I think it’s healthy to have a critical eye when reviewing the participation, discussion, and contribution in the learning community. How can we evaluate and reflect this practice more in our own learning networks?

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The Echo Chamber [Revisited] by @gapingvoid

In my efforts to set up my 10-week Summer courses (one of the reasons why I dropped off the #rhizo15 path as an “active participant” both blogging, tweeting & on the Facebook group for a while), I thought more about how communities can enhance learning, both the informal and formal sides. In reflecting on my own formal learning/teaching, I have always valued individual contributions and experiences shared by others. Whether it has been a course, certificate, professional meeting or a training seminar — the best experience in learning has been from the people. We typically have been prompted to respond, answer, or be involved in some sort of interaction — however the learning happens more when the group of learners actively participate, chat, and share. This got me thinking about how to develop a learning community in a formal course curriculum and consider ways to personalize the learning experience.

Forcing or facilitating openness? You decide.

I like the idea of openness guided by the instructor. I enjoy finding meaning and ways to interpret the discussions; however I knew that most of my learners need directions and clear targets. This prompt encouraged ways to facilitate “openness” in my own teaching/training to revitalize a sense of exploration for my learners/participants. I want to facilitate a space that is structured “enough”; however it  does make room for all voices and galvanizes my learners to contribute to include their different perspectives and experiences. How are you encouraging these type of “open” learning experiences in your courses? How are they being interpreted/received by your students?

This past Monday kicked off the Summer sessions at UNT, and I was excited to welcome my learners in #LTEC3010 (Personal Development) and #LTEC4000 (Introduction to Training and Development). Both courses guide career and professional development either as individuals or within an organization [both course syllabi are posted here, if interested]. Interestingly enough, these two different courses have a lot of similarity in understanding organizational learning and individual performance in the workplace. There is enough “structure” for our online undergraduate courses; however I have made room for research, questions, creativity, and contributions from the learners. To be intentional about community learning, there are a number of activities (e.g. discussions, research projects, etc.) and examples to encourage self-directed learning offered in each class. As per usual, I hope to model the impacts online communities of practice and professional mentoring can have on individual academic/career development, while also introducing how informal and online learning networks can support new modes for training and development.

We shall see how these learning communities develop and grow… more to share soon (I hope).