Before we get into session 2 I want to check in with you to see how you went with your activities for session 1 on Defining your dream career. What were your wins, challenges and insights?

Take a moment to write your thoughts in your journal

Did you try any of the bonus activities? If you did, congratulations on getting out of your comfort zone. If you didn’t make it your goal to try one from this session.

Remember, it’s important to do the activities as you go rather than all at once. Often your mind needs time to process what you’re learning and it can’t do that in one hit.

 

Overview of this session

Our second session will look at step 1 of the 5 step pivot process: Creating a well defined core. To pivot you need a solid foundation to work with and this comes from really knowing yourself. Without that insight any attempt to take your career in a new direction will not succeed. So this session will look at:

  • Why a strong core is the foundation of any successful career pivotCore 300x286 - Session 2: Creating a well defined core
  • The 5 parts of your core that will determine your career success
  • A 6 step process for examining each part of your core that will help you make better career decisions
  • How to strengthen your core to make your pivot easier

 

Remember to use the worksheet to record your answers or copy and paste the questions into your electronic journal. You’ll also find some bonus activities to help you fast track your progress.

 

Why a strong core is the foundation of any successful career pivot

The pivot process is based on the same concept that dancers use. Every form of dancing requires control over your body, which is achieved by having core strength. The same is true for a range of other sports so if you aren’t into dancing pick your own example as a substitute. Your core is in the centre of your body. It’s your stomach muscles, which give you the “controlled freedom” to easily move.

Having a strong core is also the foundation of any successful career pivot. That’s because another meaning of the word core is:

a basic, essential, or enduring part of a person”

Your core represents aspects of you that are fundamental to your personality or character. Without them, you aren’t you. I’ve found that if you don’t understand yourself you’re more likely to make bad career decisions based on factors like:

  • What’s easiest
  • What pays the most
  • What’s close to home
  • What’s popular or trendy
  • What will make other people happy

The result can be you end up in a career that isn’t right for you. Selecting a career that’s compatible with your core reduces your stress levels and increases your career satisfaction. It also boosts your results as it’s easier for you to do well when your career allows you to express your real self.

When you understand your core it gives also you confidence and energy, which spurs you into action. I know it did for me when I discovered my love of training and later went to university while working full time. Without that confidence and energy it would have been easy to say it was too hard and never try. In fact I used to turn up at classes even if I was sick, that’s how dedicated I was. I think most of my high school teachers would have been shocked to hear that!

Can you think of a time when you made a hard career decision that was backed by confidence and energy? What was the result?

Write your answer on the worksheet

Understanding how your core forms is an important part of the strengthening process. For a dancer, their core develops by deliberately engaging the right muscles so it becomes natural to have them “turned on” every time they dance. This takes time and focus. Your core will have formed over time too, in response to your personal experiences. They could be positive or negative experiences that resulted in your adopting or rejecting certain thought processes. Every time you call on what you’ve learnt you strengthen that part of your core.

In the next section I’m going to unpack the 5 parts of your core to help you make sense of this but for now I just want you to start thinking about what comes to mind when I say “your core”. So use the following 3 questions to start thinking about what matters to you.

You’ll know if something is part of your core because:

  • You feel strongly about it
  • You get upset when people question it or act in opposition to it
  • You wouldn’t go against it no matter what and if you did would be left feeling guilty or disappointed in yourself

Here’s an example …

  • I feel strongly about having my work measured by the results I get not the hours I put in.
  • I get upset when people ignore requests I make. I’m happy to hear no but radio silence annoys me.
  • I could never sell something to a person knowing they don’t really need it. I’d feel too guilty.

These 3 statements represent parts of my core. Based on what we’ve covered so far, what are yours?

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

The 5 parts of your core that will determine your career success

So we know a dancer’s core comes from their stomach muscles. When it comes to your career your core is in the same place: it’s your gut instinct. It’s what you know is right and true for you. So this isn’t a logical process, there are no right or wrong answers to the question “what is your core?”, but I believe that a strong core is made up of 5 key dimensions.

Let’s examine each one of them to help you better understand your core.

corenew 300x198 - Session 2: Creating a well defined core

Drivers I’ve put your drivers at the very centre of your core because they influence everything else going on around them. Your drivers are what motivate you in life. They represent what gets your attention, gets you excited and makes you feel alive. You can see them at play in not only your career but also the rest of your life. I like to think they are a unique aspect of you that remains intact despite the influences around you. As you’ll see that is not always the case with the other aspects of your core.

I’ve come up with a list of 7 drivers for you to consider …

Challenge This is the drive to go beyond your perceived limits. It’s about pushing yourself and doing what other people think is impossible.

Collaboration This is the drive to work with others. It’s about sharing resources and working towards a common goal.

Compassion This is the drive to care for the well being of people or animals. It’s about helping those who can’t help themselves.

Connection This is the drive to feel close to other people. It’s about feeling part of a community or tribe.

Contribution This is the drive to make a difference. It’s about leaving a legacy and knowing your efforts have been part of something bigger.

Creativity This is the drive to use your imagination. It’s about being inventive and having original thoughts.

Curiosity This is the drive to understand the world around you. It’s about asking questions, seeking answers and being open to new ideas.

 

You’ll notice the list doesn’t say anything about fame, status or money. These are not real drivers, although they are often the end result of successfully applying your driver to your career. When someone says that fame, status or money drives them it is really a cover for some deeper need. You must discover what that is or you will never create your dream career.

So let’s see the drivers in action:

My driver is curiosity. I often call myself a “professional stickybeak”. I remember when I first start working in recruitment I loved it because I was so interested in hearing people’s career stories. To this day I love asking people questions and learning about their world. It also explains why I love to travel.

I have a good friend who is definitely a connector. He loves being part of a community. He just can’t help himself so he’s involved in lots of different groups all around the world.

 

So how do you discover your driver? Some people like a robust, scientific method and others prefer a simple, unscientific approach so I’m going to offer both.

The scientific approach requires some analysis using what I call the C.O.R.E. process:

  • Compelling … draws you in again and again
  • Organic … feels natural not forced
  • Resonates … appeals to you emotionally
  • Engaging … puts you in a flow state

The unscientific way is your automatic response to the question: what did you get in trouble for as a kid? I asked too many questions. I had a friend who was always bringing home stray animals.

This list of drivers is designed to get you thinking. It is not a rigid set of rules you must follow. You might have a different word and it doesn’t have to start with C. You may also have more than one driver although if you do I suspect one will be your primary driver. Don’t worry, choosing one doesn’t mean you lack the others, it just means that is the most important one for you. So ignore that voice in your head that says what you should choose and listen to your heart.

So what are your drivers?

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

Beliefs The next layer of your core contains your beliefs. These are generalisations and assumptions we make that we see as true. They are not necessarily based on fact. We often don’t question our beliefs even when faced with evidence they are not true or that other people have different beliefs.

Here’s a common example:

You were raised to believe that being on time is important and shows respect to others. So you go out of your way to be on time for meetings, which for you means arriving 5 minutes early. Many of your colleagues are more flexible with their interpretation of “on time” and turn up just as the meeting starts then go and make a cup of coffee. This drives you mad!

One of the reasons I chose this example is because I’ve always been someone who likes to be on time. I found that when I started working with clients in South East Asia I had to adjust my idea of time keeping as not all cultures view time in the same way. I learnt that not only were they flexible on starting times but also break times and finish times. There were times when those beliefs worked in my favour.

Some beliefs become very strongly entrenched and can influence our thoughts in very powerful ways. That’s why it’s often called having a belief system. We all have beliefs around religion, politics or family and these can heavily influence how we behave on a daily basis.

Then there are the beliefs we have specifically about work. Here are some examples:

Hard work will be rewardedResults matter more than effort
Promotion should be merit basedPromotion should be experience based
Treat others how they want to be treatedTreat others how you want to be treated
Respect is earned not givenRespect your elders
The truth is absoluteThe truth is relative
The end justifies the meansThe process matters more than results
People deserve a second chanceOne strike and you are out

When you look at this table of beliefs do some stand out for you as right while others are wrong? That’s normal, but the truth is none of these beliefs are incorrect. In many cases it depends on the situation. They are all a matter of personal opinion based on your experiences and upbringing.

The problem is when you’re working in a career that goes against your long held beliefs in the name of making money or conforming. That’s what causes distress and, in some cases, mental health issues. Your dream career should allow you to work according to your beliefs. Then your work doesn’t feel so hard.

Here are some questions to consider about your beliefs and your career:

  1. What beliefs do I have about my career?
  2. Are they really my beliefs or have I just not questioned them?
  3. Are there any beliefs I currently hold that I actually disagree with?
  4. How have my beliefs about work changed over the years?
  5. When have I had a clash of beliefs in my career?
  6. How does my current career fit with my beliefs?
  7. What beliefs do I want to incorporate into my dream career?

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

The other type of beliefs you can have are around barriers. These will influence the career you choose and how successful you are in that career. Again, it doesn’t matter whether they are true or not. It’s whether you believe they are.

These are beliefs you have about aspects of yourself that you believe may get in the way of achieving your dream career. Often they involve areas that could be described as a form of discrimination but I like to think of them differently. For example:

Gender …  Age … Culture … Appearance … Education … Physical abilities … Socio economic background … Geographic location … Family situation … Reputation

I’ve personally experienced a number of these barriers throughout my career: gender, age, education and reputation immediately come to mind. There have also been times when I’ve used that perceived barrier to my advantage. It all depends on how you think about it.

If you believe that any of these factors will impede your career then you need to either take them into account when designing your dream career or find a way to overcome them.

So do you have any barriers? Use the list I’ve provided as a starting point but also answer this question:

I can’t have my dream career because …

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

Values The next layer of your core contains your values. These represent the standards that guide your behaviour. They are an expression of what is most important to you based on your beliefs. Values are often what we aspire to be, meaning we don’t always manage to achieve them.

Your values usually form as a result of your family upbringing and the wider values of the society you live in. Having said that two people can be raised with the same belief system but operate from a completely different set of values. It’s all about how you take those beliefs and interpret them.

So what are your values? Here is a list to get you thinking. Feel free to add more of your own.

AuthenticityFairnessOpenness
AchievementFamilyOptimism
AutonomyHappinessRespect
BalanceHonestyResponsibility
CompetencyIntegritySecurity
ConformityKindnessSimplicity
DiversityLoyaltyTrustworthiness

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

Your values can change over time in response to your experiences and your circumstances. Here’s what I mean:

  • You might not have valued job security highly until after you were made redundant and found yourself doing contract work. Now you value having a regular income and paid leave.
  • When you’re young and single you may place high value on career progression but after you get married and have children you might replace that with valuing flexible working conditions

Sometimes you aren’t clear on your values until you are asked to go against one of them. I remember working at an organisation when I first started my training career and heard this story about another department …

The manager was going to terminate a casual staff member and told her it was because they needed to change the hours of the role and knew she wouldn’t be able to do them. The truth was she had poor people skills and the manager didn’t want to give her feedback. He then wrote a glowing reference about her skills! Turns out this was a common practice. With my background in HR I was horrified. I didn’t last long at the organisation because our values did not match.

 

Identities The next layer of your core is about your identities. You’ll notice I didn’t say identity. That’s because we all have more than one. The concept of identity is about how you present yourself to the world and how you want to be seen by the world.

Our identities can and should develop over time. If you are too attached to an existing identity you will find it difficult to do a career pivot because it may involve letting go of that identity. That’s why it’s so important to analyse your identities before you start to pivot so you’re aware which ones are flexible and which ones are not.

I’ve done some analysis of my career identities:

careercloud - Session 2: Creating a well defined core

When you look at my word cloud you can see it tells you quite a bit about me but what I find most interesting is what it doesn’t include. There are 5 things you can’t tell from this:

Identities I’ve added I went to university in my 30s so for some of my career “university graduate” wasn’t part of my identity. In fact “high school drop out” was.

Identities I’ve dropped When I first got my degree I identified as a trainer but now I call myself a facilitator as the terms have different meanings in my industry.

Identities I’ve retained Earlier in my career I worked in Human Resources and “HR professional” is an identity I still hold. When people ask me about my background that’s what I say.

Identities I don’t relate to You’ll notice I don’t describe myself as an entrepreneur. This identity is very popular but I don’t relate to it.

Identities I want to add My goal in the next few years is to add digital nomad to my list of professional identities. I love the idea of being able to live and work anywhere in the world.

 

So now it’s your turn to think about your professional identities. Consider these questions:

  1. What are my career identities?
  2. How important are each of my identities?
  3. When have I dropped an old identity?
  4. When have I added a new identity?
  5. What identities do I not relate to?
  6. What old identities do I want to let go of?
  7. What new identities do I want to develop?

Write your answer on the worksheet

 

One of the identity problems you can face is when your career becomes your most important identity. When that happens any issue at work has a huge impact on you because you’ve put so much emphasis on it. It can also lead to “Relevance Deprivation Syndrome”, which happens when you’ve held a position of power and influence that is now gone and you struggle to find your place in the world. Depending on the type of pivot you decide to do this is something you may need to deal with.

So whilst this program is about your career I also want you to consider other aspects of your identity. For example, along with my career identities I also have a number of personal identities I like to express through my work:

personalcloud - Session 2: Creating a well defined core

You can see how it’s not that difficult to bring the two sets of identities together. For example, I’ve been a volunteer doing public speaking at a zoo handling live animals which helped me to develop my skills and advance my career.

So now it’s your turn:

  1. What are my personal identities?
  2. Which of my identities does my current career let me express?
  3. What identities do I want to be able to express through my career?

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

Priorities The final layer of your core is your priorities. This is about where you focus your time, money and energy. Your priorities represent what is most important to you. Like your values, your priorities can change over time in response to what’s going on in your life.

Some of the common priorities you may have are:

FamilyRelationships
ChildrenPets
HealthFitness
CareerFinances
EducationCommunity
HobbiesReligion
AppearanceReputation

 

  1. What are my top priorities in order of importance?
  2. What have I done in the last week to demonstrate these are my priorities?
  3. What would I like my priorities to be in my dream career?

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

I often meet people who say they have a set of priorities but then don’t act in a way that supports them. That’s because they get distracted listening to what other people tell them they should prioritise. This can lead to poor alignment, which we’ll look at in Session 3 on “Improving your alignment for greater success”.

 

A 6 step process for examining each part of your core that will help you make better career decisions

By now you should have a summary of your core, with a description for each of the 5 parts. We’re now going to examine your core so you can get really clear on it to help you with your career pivot.

For each part of your core I want you to consider 6 types of questions that have been asked by thinkers since ancient times. Today they’re used by journalists, researchers and investigators. By answering these 6 types of questions your goal is to get a well rounded and complete understanding of your core. I’ve come up with a few different questions for each category but I’m sure there are more. Feel free to add others as you think of them.

WhyWhatWhen
Why is this aspect important to me?What stands out for me?When did I first realise this is how I felt?
Why am I having trouble identifying aspects?What doesn’t seem to fit?When has this aspect influenced my career?
Why am I happy/ unhappy with my answers?What am I starting to question?When did I last review this aspect?
WhereWhoHow
Where are my gaps in understanding?Who has influenced the answers I’ve given?How do I feel about my answers?
Where are there patterns in my answers?Who can help me to better understand yourself?How can I better define this aspect?
Where am I feeling stuck?Who should I not seek input from?How has this process altered my thinking?

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

How to strengthen your core to make your pivot easier

You want your career pivot to be as easy as possible and that can only happen if you’re operating from a strong core. A dancer strengthens their core by using it. Your core is the same. It’s one thing to write down what makes up your core but it’s another to actually use it on a regular basis. If you don’t then it starts to get weaker over time.

Think about how many times each day you have the opportunity to act from your core and don’t. Depending on how strong your core is will determine how often this happens. So a good place to start is by rating the strength of each aspect of your core.

Here is your scale:

Very Weak … Weak … Average … Strong … Very Strong

Write your answers on the worksheet

 

Now that you have a clearer understanding of where you stand, here are some suggested activities to strengthen your core.

  • Write down some examples of when you have used your core either personally or professionally. Analyse the situation to remind yourself that it is possible to be true to yourself.
  • See what you can you learn from how you have developed your strongest aspects to help you with the weakest aspects. Often we know what to do but don’t apply that in other aspects of our lives.
  • Start using your strongest aspects even more to give you confidence before you consider working on your weakest aspects. It’s always easier to make changes when you have confidence in yourself.
  • Start practicing using your core in your personal life first. That way you can test out your ideas before applying them in your career. Family and friends are likely to be more flexible than your employer and colleagues. This also gives you the opportunity to practice explaining why you’re behaving differently.
  • Think about some common career situations you find yourself in and how you would respond differently if you were operating from your core. Plan out your response and practice it with a colleague you trust.

What is your plan for strengthening your core?

Write your answers on the worksheet

  

PUtting it all together

OK, now it’s time to apply all the skills you’ve learnt in this session. Look back over your answers on the worksheet and use them to create a visual representation of your core. Pick out the key 3 to 5 words from each of the 5 sections and plot them on a diagram. You can print it out or keep it on your phone. Look at a regularly over the next week to remind yourself what you wrote. You may find that as the week goes along you alter some of the key words as your thoughts become clearer.

 

Next session

In session 3 we’re going to look at step 2 in the pivot process: Improving your alignment for greater success. It’s not enough to understand each part of your core. You need to make sure the 5 parts are in alignment if you want to pivot to your dream career. So this session will look at:

  • Why alignment is vital to your career pivot
  • The 10 warning signs that you’re out of alignment
  • What causes you to get out of alignment
  • How to measure your current degree of alignment
  • The key to realigning your core

Watch out for an email with a link to your materials that will arrive next week. I’m also going to send you an email mid week with a reminder to complete your activities and a quick tip.