Have you wondered about the origins of our corporate name? We drew the name “Know Thyself” from Greek philosophy. The concept fits the process of choosing a career in multiple ways, just as the Greeks meant many things when they exhorted people to “know thyself.”
One meaning commonly ascribed to the saying is that by knowing oneself, one will also know his or her place in the world. That makes perfect sense when choosing a career. If you know yourself – and what you need to be happy, successful and understood in a career – then you have a much better potential of finding “your place” in the working world. Self-knowledge is the rudder that allows you to steer your career in the course you want to go, rather than be carried along by external influences.
The phrase can also be seen as a warning to value your own opinion over that of others – “know thyself” as in “know your own mind,” rather than just listening to what others think. In terms of choosing a career, advice may be welcome or unwelcome – you’ll get plenty no matter how you feel about it. Some advice will be valuable, some worthwhile, but no one’s opinions should have greater influence over your career decisions than what you know to be true about yourself.
Finally, when Greek teachers said the phrase to their students, they were reminding their pupils that no one can fully study and understand something (or someone) else until one knows oneself first. The same is true of your career decisions. Unless you “know thyself” first, choosing a career will involve trial and error. Self-knowledge is as valuable today as it was when the ancient Greeks first began to ponder the concept.
It can be difficult to wrap your mind around just how different people are – and how important it is to know yourself before choosing a career. Here’s an analogy that may help – approach choosing a career with the same level of planning and attention to detail and personal tastes that you would apply when preparing a gourmet meal for yourself.
People’s tastes in food and wine are widely diverse. Just look at the MidAtlantic Wine and Food Festival in Delaware. Taking place over four days in May, the festival will feature 50 different events with something for every taste bud. Check out www.mawff.org and you’ll get an idea of the culinary diversity that appeals to the wide-ranging tastes of people in our nation’s least-populated state.
Just as everyone has different tastes in food and wine, choosing a career is also a matter of personal tastes. In terms of food, what you like may not appeal at all to your best friends. Even the most skilled wine connoisseurs and celebrity chefs differ in their personal preferences. If you make menu choices for your gourmet meal based on what other people like, or what you think you should like (but don’t really), you’ll end up with an unsatisfying meal.
Choosing a career is exactly the same principle – if you make your career decision based on what other people think you should do, or what you think you should do rather than what you want, you’ll end up in an unsatisfying job.
Just as you can acquire new tastes in food and wine by educating yourself and experiencing new cuisines, you can find a job that will make you happy and successful. Start by serving yourself a heaping helping of self-knowledge, and you’ll be well on your way to feasting on a fulfilling career.
And if you’d like to have a fulfilling culinary experience, stop by the MidAtlantic Wine and Food Festival, running Wednesday, May 14 through Sunday, May 18 at locations throughout the Brandywine Valley, and central and coastal Delaware.
Mohandas Gandhi once said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” That philosophy isn’t applicable only to social activism – it has great value throughout life, especially when it comes to career change.
Typically, people either eagerly embrace change when it occurs in the workplace, unhappily accept it or actively resist it. You may think that first approach is the best, but we’re here to tell you none of those reactions are optimum. That’s because the best changes are the ones you choose to make, rather than just allowing them to happen to you.
Avoidance doesn’t work for obvious reasons. Change in your professional life will occur no matter what you do. Co-workers and supervisors will come and go, corporate objectives will change, market fluctuations will impact budgets – a host of outside forces will create change. Embracing change seems a better option, but that alone isn’t enough. Merely accepting change as it comes means sacrificing the opportunity to choose the career changes that are best for you.
While it’s important to manage your reaction to externally generated change, it’s equally vital that you learn how to create the career change you desire.
What do you need to be happy and successful in your career? How is your current work environment or job not meeting those needs? What can you do to either realign your current job role to meet those needs or to find a new one that will? What career would best allow you to use and enjoy your skills, strengths and interests?
Answering those questions isn’t easy, and it requires self-knowledge. Once you better understand yourself and what you need to be happy, successful and understood in a job, you’ll be in a strong position to create the career change you wish to see in your world.
We’ve talked a lot in past blogs about career change and how to find a job that’s right for you. Self-knowledge is at the core of job satisfaction, and once you know what you need in order to be happy, successful and understood in a job, you’ll have a good idea of what you should look for in a new job. Remember, too, that it’s important to act wisely when it’s time to make a move.
No matter how unhappy you think you are in your current job, we recommend against leaping without looking. Not only do you want to ensure that you have another job lined up before you give up the income and benefits of your current one, you also want to be sure the next job is right for you.
We believe – and, of equal importance, so do most employers – that you want to leave your current job on a positive, upbeat note with grace and dignity. No matter how unhappy you’ve been or how poorly you believe your current employer has treated you, there’s real value in being the bigger person.
While you’re looking for a new job and during the customary two-weeks-notice period before you leave your current employer, keep professionalism in mind.
Don’t check out early. Professional honor dictates you continue to give your current job your best until you are officially no longer employed there. The coworkers you leave behind will appreciate your professionalism, and supervisors will be more willing to serve as references for you in the future.
Leave your bridges in as good a repair as possible. If you’ve experienced friction with a coworker or supervisor, do your best to resolve issues before you depart. Admittedly, that may not always be possible. In that case, do your best to ensure your excitement about your new job doesn’t worsen the problem.
Do your best to ease the transition. If you’re asked to train your replacement, be as thorough and positive as you can be. Never bad-mouth coworkers, supervisors, management or the company itself to a new hire. Gossip speaks badly of you and demoralizes the new person.
Conduct the exit interview with grace and goodwill. Your professionalism will be appreciated and remembered.
Finally, remember: just because a job wasn’t right for you doesn’t mean it’s not a good job for someone else. There’s a lid for every kettle, and a right employee for every job. Be appreciative for the experience your old job gave you and happy that your self-knowledge has set you on the path toward a new job that’s right for you.
Most of us do more than one thing well. People who excel at a particular task, such as accounting or architectural design, often have a second area of interest in which their talent shines, like painting or gardening. We Americans are a diverse, robust lot and we’re interested in many things. That breadth of interest may make choosing a career path seem difficult.
We would argue, however, that variety makes for wonderful opportunities.
The broader your interests and skills, the more viable career paths there are open to you. The true challenge may be in deciding which one is most right for you and how your many skills can help you when choosing a career.
Talents and skills you might not even consider as having a practical application in the business world may actually be the keys to a rewarding and successful career. It’s vital to understand what you’re really capable of and what really makes you happy before you choose a career.
How do you catalogue all your talents, skills and interests? Many smart career-hunters begin by taking a Birkman Method® test. The average test-taker, however, doesn’t have the analytical knowledge to translate those test results into meaningful information.
That’s where help comes in handy.
A customized me-book™ can help put things in perspective for you. You’ll not only learn about your strengths, talents and interests, you’ll gain valuable insight into how to apply your unique assets to identify your career options. You’ll be better equipped to choose from all those options and zero in on the career path that’s most right for you.