Questions to Help Uncover A Purpose Driven Career

Questions to Help Uncover A Purpose Driven Career

Gavan Ambrosini –Executive Career Coach, PCC

November 16, 2016

California Career Development Association Quarterly 2016 Fall Edition

“It is not the answers we get, but the questions we ask that can help guide someone to understanding passion and purpose. Career practitioners can help clients see themselves as unique and positive contributors to the collective community of work and life. Learn to ask questions to prompt discovery and help them see what it means to have a purpose driven life.”

How do we help today’s youth understand that success is not all about “being” something—a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or astronaut. And it is also not just about having a fat paycheck, or about being a boss, owning your own business or winning the lottery. It is about finding a way to “have it all” without having it all.

It’s about creating work/life balance.  It means finding out who you are, and discovering ways to share your gifts with the world. Decide what moves you into action and translate that into purpose.

How do we do that?  When kids have been conditioned for 13 years to follow 1 set of rules, one path in hopes of getting an A—and that an A is what defines you as successful or not—how do we unlearn this strongly ingrained societal standard of excellence?

As adults–we have come to know what defines us; it is what we experience — and essentially how we respond to those experiences. Thoughts and feelings about those experiences get stored in our memory banks, and based on our past experiences we will move toward or move away from doing more of the same. If we can tap into this level of conversation early on—we can help youth better understand their uniqueness is what will help them stand apart.

Today’s youth need to understand that what makes them different is what can bring them success. They need to see themselves as unique and positive contributors to the collective community of work and life.

Many MBA students I work with believe that an MBA is an automatic ticket to a $100,000 job.  They are so focused on convincing employers they have a golden ticket that proves their worth and value.  They believe they can be molded in any way, and are disillusioned when they get passed over for high paying jobs by their peers.  Many have this mindset that having an MBA is proof enough they can handle whatever the business world throws at them.  This may be true,  but it is not enough.

Employers are looking past the MBA and want to see what prospective young employees are truly made of.

My advice to students is that an MBA a tool — much like a Swiss army knife — you may have access to many different functions—but it does not mean you are the knife and it does not mean that each function of the knife is particularly strong—even if useful.

The key factor students miss is that employers want to know their personal strengths more than their skills.  Skills can be taught, but natural talents?  That is what comes from within—and if discovered early can be honed into strengths and overall productivity and engagement.

Sometimes I put it this way to them: “If you could be any function of that knife—what would it be?”

Equally as important, employers are starting to understand that knowing the person inside is as important as what potential job-ready skills they bring. They want to know what drives them. What truly engages them? Many employers realize that a paycheck is not going to keep motivated and happy in their work as long as a job that utilizes their strengths and keeps them motivated and engaged.

The question now becomes this: “As professional career development practitioners how can we help our student populations discover who they are. Connect their individual talents, experiences and skills—find a way to communicate that individuality and create a more compelling path towards a purpose driven life.

It might help to describe working life as a buffet.  Many choices, many things to try and discover—and though we may want to choose everything—there is only so much room on the plate.  Rather than focus on all of what is available—let’s turn the tables and focus on what our clients enjoy.

Here are seven questions to ask students to help prompt the process of self-discovery and start to build the composite pieces of their colorful mosaic.

  1. Tell me a story about a time when you achieved something, felt most excited or happy. Describe everything you felt, saw and experienced at that moment using all five senses. (Prompts: achievement, vacation, holiday, birthday, sports, activity, outdoor activity, hobby(Values)
  2. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in this world what would it be? (What problem would they like to see solved in this world? (Vision)
  3. What makes you stand out from others? What makes you different? What is your “x” factor?  (What are they known for, what do they enjoy doing? (Passion)
  4. Tell me about a time when you worked really hard on something and failed to do well. (What does this story tell me about their ability to learn from failure (Growth vs. Fixed Mindset)
  5. Tell me about a time when you worked hard on something that you weren’t very good at and surprised yourself by doing well? (How comfortable are they with uncertainty?  How determined are they to improve your skills (Grit/Resilience)
  6. What are you naturally good at? Describe for me a time when you worked really hard at something and you enjoyed the process so much that you lost track of time (Discover what puts them in “flow” or in a mode of pure engagement/enjoyment –(Strengths)
  7. What does it mean to be happy?(

    Another values

    based question, however instead of experience focused, it is future focused and can help determine- (Intrinsic extrinsic motivators, self-efficacy and agency)

The big question then becomes—how can we take all of this and apply it to the world of work?  Instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, we can look at clients with unconditional positive regard—completely capable of aligning their gifts with opportunities for continuous engagement and growth.

Gavan Ambrosini is a talent broker and executive career coach in Sacramento, CA. She currently works with MBA Students at UC Davis as a career coach and facilitator. She is an NCDA certified Career Development Facilitator Instructor and an ICF professional certified coach (PCC) with a private practice. During the past 10 years, she has helped over a thousand people with the job search and is a regular speaker in the Sacramento area.