Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Self-Coaching Approach to Career Assessment
In a recent Deloitte survey, 20% of people reported being truly passionate about their work. A Gallup survey concluded that the vast majority of workers are disengaged.
Many of these people remain in their positions but are mentally checked out of work, a phenomenon that has a negative impact on both the individual and the organization.
Let’s be honest. I’ve been there. How about you?
I compare my first job after graduation from veterinary school to a marriage. I felt I was well suited to my “partner” and had not entered into the “marriage” with the intent of separation. During the “honeymoon” period, I was excited about my new professional status and challenges. However, I quickly discovered that I lived for Wednesdays (my day off) and every third week when I had a 3-day weekend. Things weren’t working for me or for my employer. This was the first time I asked myself the question: What needs to change?
Over the past 27 years, I have experienced a number of job changes and there are times when I thought, if I only knew then what I know now! The wisdom that I share here is heartfelt, real, and can hopefully make a difference for you.
As a leadership development coach who works with a wide range of professions, including veterinary medicine, I know that the self-coaching approach is a way to begin to answer the most important question related to career or job dissatisfaction: What needs to change—me or the situation? It involves 3 things:
1. Developing insight into your current reality
2. Looking at the options that are possible
3. Designing actions and accountability to support your choice
The first element of self-coaching is usually the most challenging and yet is most critical. It usually begins with a review of personal values. While our core values don’t typically change during the course of our lives, their relative “weight” changes in response to our circumstances, relationships, responsibilities, and other factors. What doesn’t change is the importance of honoring and living our values to the extent we can.
How can I do more of what I really love and have passion for?
1. Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths
My clients have benefited from taking a free online assessment available at authentichappiness.org. This site is administered by Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, a leading researcher in the area of positive psychology. The VIA (Values in Action) Survey of Character Strengths provides a ranking of values that can inform career and life decision making. This information can help with some immediate career decisions and provide a way to measure values alignment on an ongoing basis.
2. Employee Engagement Diagnostic Model
I also recommend the Employee Engagement Diagnostic Model (EEDM) developed by organizational psychologist Lori Wieters.1 The EEDM provides a useful framework for assessing your fit and engagement at work. This model suggests that there are 3 levels or areas of “fit” and 12 indicators that you can consider to self-assess in those areas.
Need a Change? Use the checklist to assess your fit and engagement at work!
The first level is job fit, which includes the knowledge and technical skills required for job success and the behaviors that blend well with those skills. It also includes personal values, in terms of alignment with the specific job, and levels of internal and external motivation.
My first job changes were related to poor job fit. Although I was a well trained and technically competent veterinary practitioner, taking care of animals was not my passion. It took several attempts at job fit to discover that I preferred the organizational development aspects of the profession. I discovered that having the requisite skills and abilities is no guarantee that one will be passionate and motivated about coming to work each day.
The second level in the EEDM, environmental fit, considers the employee’s relationship to his or her leader, peers, and team. It also includes environmental work conditions that can sometimes cause major dissatisfaction. For me, I discovered that this was not a source of major dissatisfaction. In fact, in my first job, I loved the practice owners and staff. In my next job, I was fortunate to work with one of the best leaders I’ve ever encountered. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with talented people and working conditions were never key issues of concern.
The third level in the model is organizational fit. This includes some of the less tangible areas of vision, values, customers, and culture. My struggles in this domain were equal to those in the job fit area at various times. In my first practice experience, I wasn’t sure what wasn’t working. In retrospect, I realize that one of my core values of authenticity was not present to the degree that I needed. I was basically doing what I thought others expected of me. In a subsequent job, there was a cultural misfit in terms of how my perspective matched that of the organization. I was frustrated with management strategies that were designed to drive short-term financial performance but were having a detrimental impact on employee health and morale. For me, it was an imbalance between head and heart and my heart was hurting.
So what can you do when faced with a disconnect in any or all of these areas of fit? After completing the VIA Character Strengths assessment and exploring the EEDM model, it’s time to move on to more questions that focus on your options and choices. Remember, the key question is, What needs to change—me or the situation? Consider these questions:
• In what ways could I change my attitude or reframe how I’m looking at
• What lessons can I learn from this situation that will help me
• What changes to my role could lead to being and doing more of what
• How can I do more of what I really love and have passion for—in my
• What might I do to better honor my core values?
After exploring your choices, it’s time to look at ways to accomplish your intentions. If, for example, you find that you are faced with poor job fit after a promotion to a new position and don’t yet have the confidence or competence to be immediately successful, look for ways to secure the resources you’re lacking.
If you are finding that you are no longer challenged by your current role and responsibilities, look at your strengths and find ways to make them a bigger part of your regular work life. For instance, if creativity is important to you, offer to help develop innovative ways to deliver client education and improve compliance. Or offer to write a newsletter or develop some new ways to market the practice.
If you are feeling that you are not connected to your peers, consider ways to further develop individual relationships that will enhance the working conditions for everyone. Look for ways to appreciate individual differences and collaborate as a team.
Once you’ve considered your options, it’s time to answer the ultimate question: Should I stay or should I go? I agree with the saying, “Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Life’s too short to just go through the motions and feel disengaged at work. If you agree with me, you’ll need to summon the courage to make a change.
You may need the courage to change your attitude or outlook and be willing to step up and take the responsibility to make your job experience the best it can be. Or, you may need the courage to step out of your comfort zone to find a new job that offers a better opportunity or a better environmental or organizational fit. You may even decide to take a leap into the unknown and go in an entirely different direction with your career.
Benefits of a Self-Coaching Approach
Will you ever find a perfect fit in all 3 areas? Probably not. But if you’re finding that you look forward to your days off rather than your days at work, a shift is in order.
A coaching approach will help you decide:
• Should I stay with my current employer and look for ways to create a
• Should I leave and find a better job fit elsewhere?
Should I Stay or Should I Go? A Self-Coaching Approach to Career Assessment
Jeff Thoren, DVM, ACC
1. Program Title: The Psychology of Employee Engagement – Diagnosing Fit, Engagement and Retention. April 19, 2012, 11:00-1:00PM. Grand Canyon University, 3300 W. Camelback Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85017, College of Nursing, Room 201.