Do you feel like you’re in the wrong job? Or have you started to feel like something is missing in your career but not sure what?

No matter what stage you are in your journey and what level your experience is, career uncertainty affects all of us. After all, deciding on a career is an exciting yet equally intimidating proposition.

So if your career path has taken a turn into the wrong direction, it doesn’t have to be the path of no return. Gaining clarity will reset your career compass.

What is career clarity?

Ultimately, it’s an understanding of:

  • Who you are
  • What you can do
  • What you want to do
  • What values drive you
  • What motivates and demotivates you
  • What brings you joy
  • What drags you down, and
  • What your personal preferences are in any role you take on.

If you genuinely understand what makes you tick and what your mission in life is, you’ll have better career clarity than most people.

But what happens after you’ve gained career clarity? You then need to understand the concept of career focus.

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What is career focus?

This is about having a clear vision of who you are, and where you want your career to take you.

Essentially, your focus is your goal.

With that goal as your focus, each choice you make will help you to get closer to what will be truly satisfying for you in your career.

An in-depth study by Edgar Schein, widely acclaimed as one of the founders of the field of modern organisational psychology, discovered that all of us have a particular orientation towards our work. That is, we all approach our work with a certain set of priority and values. These are what we call career anchors.

Understanding your career anchor gives you your focus. Everyone has a career anchor that pulls them in a certain direction and this career anchor stays true throughout your career. 

This anchor is a combination of

  • perceived areas of competence,
  • motives,
  • and values relating to professional work choices.

Often, people select a career for the wrong reasons, and find their workplace is incompatible with their true values. This situation results in feelings of unrest, discontent, frustration and lost productivity. It’s that feeling of “something’s just not quite right”.

For you to avoid this feeling of lack of focus, turn to your career anchor to discover your real values and use them to make better career choices.

A career anchor is the one element in your self-concept that holds you on the right path, even in the face of difficult choices.

How to gain career clarity

Conduct a stocktake of where you’re at in each of these areas of your life:

  1. Take an inventory of your career, finances, relationships, physical environment and your current state of health
  2. Identify what you are tolerating in both your life and career right now
  3. Identify your top personal and career values
  4. Identify your work satisfiers and dissatisfiers (and importantly, why)
  5. Identify the skills you love to use, your competence level, and the skills you’d like to develop
  6. Create a personal mission statement – think about the legacy you’d like to leave.

How to gain career focus

  1. Identify the industries that appeal to you (and why)
  2. Identify specific companies that you admire in those industries
  3. Research the company, learn of their culture, speak with people in those companies, and find out as much as you can about the direction the business is taking to analyse how closely it would align with your own preferences
  4. Aligned with your career anchor, think about the legacy you would like to leave as result of the work that you dedicate your life to. Your mission will help you to hold focus, and that focus will provide you with the compass that guides you.

An important factor to remember is that it’s okay if, after some time, you feel that you need to make a pivot and adjust your focus – life is ever-evolving so change in your career is inevitable.

If you still feel stuck, identify a mentor or coach who can help guide you. Remember, there’s always a path forward and an objective observer often can see what is not immediately obvious to you.

For help to identify your values, motivators, transferrable skills and mission statement, The Career Clarity Pack will give you a solid foundation from which to base your exploration.

Jane Jackson is a Career Management Coach and author of Navigating Career Crossroads. She can be contacted here.

RELATED: Are you having a career breakdown?

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