When we think about a career may consider the skills, knowledge and functional experience in what we do. We may consider how we do what we do. We might deliver and share for others, research, or create. We may consider industries like health or education, or companies in the public, private or not for profit. We have a lot of options in how we do what we do.
However there is one thing that is foundational and critical regardless of what you do and how you do it. It will create unparalleled momentum in achieving your aspirations.
Why do you do what you do.
Whether your role is a coordinator, designer or manager, you can gain immense clarity and direction by understanding what your purpose is as an L&D practitioner. Ask yourself
- What do I want to achieve?
- Why is this important to me?
- What is my intention?
- What do I want others to achieve?
- Why is this important to me?
Many people work hard in roles yet remain unfulfilled internally. They may see their jobs as a means to an end. They may have bigger plans. You know the “one day I am going to……” It might be that the values or purpose of others have been imposed on them causing them to do things at are dissatisfying or uninspiring.
There is a saying that if you find your passion you never have to work another day in your life. Finding your purpose is a means to finding your passion.
How would that look for you?
Studies have found that L&D professionals are intrinsically motivated by what they do. They love teaching, designing, researching, and coordinating. They are also highly motivated to learn. Keeping abreast of what you do and how you do it are part of being an L&D professional.
But this can be limiting
Over my career I have worked with many L&D teams. I have seen them design and deliver many programs, some fantastic, some not so.
I understood that this is what L&D people did. They designed and delivered programs. However they also received a lot of flak. I believe that this happens when L&D professionals are so passionate about what they do: training, teaching, &/or designing. They did what they do best however others would struggle to grasp the meaning or the value.
Credibility and respect comes from the value others perceive in you. I can deliver a fantastic program but if you don’t understand why I did so, the value dwindles. This is the importance of knowing your purpose
For example, just say I am asked by the senior leadership team to design a program to improve collaboration across the teams. I would ask some questions and gather information to scope out the project and put together a proposal for approval. I get approval to roll out a 3 hour program across all teams using an external provider on “Tools to improve collaboration.” My job is done.
Now let’s look at this same scenario with me having a clearly defined purpose. Let’s say that my purpose as an L&D professional is to unlock the potential in people.
All of a sudden I have a navigation point to move towards. Now the focus is not to improve collaboration across teams but how does collaboration lock/unlock peoples’ potential and what is missing/broken/not working here? This encourages me to look at the request in a very different light. It also encourages me to look at other programs I have put together because they already link to my purpose and I want to make sure this one does too.
Now I have something inspiring, challenging and exciting to work towards. In helping the business solve a problem I nourish my purpose.
Regardless of the requests, when you know your purpose you immediately have a reference point. Customer Service training, high risk safety training, how to do performance appraisals, each program is now opportunity for you to deliver on your purpose.
How does knowing my purpose impact my career?
When you know why you are doing what you do, you provide clarity for others. People can see a pattern or a link with everything your do. Your programs and methods of delivery consistently align. The value you add therefore will be easier to measure and deliver. This is because your purpose sets the scene: people get it, see it, and then believe in it.
This is where your value will be realised.
And that is good for your promotion prospects.
When people perceive value in what you do, they ask for more. Because you are grounded in why you do what you do, you consistently deliver with the right programs in the right context. You change from being an L&D practitioner to a true business partner.
Your purpose will remain with you along your career path. It may evolve and become better defined but the essence won’t change. Every promotion and new job simply gives you new scope to work towards your purpose. If in your career you move from the role of coordinator, to business partner, to the Manager of the L&D team, or whether you move from a large corporation into a small practice, your purpose still rings true.
How do you find your purpose?
This is simple in concept but challenging in practice. Look back over your life and find patterns that link with what you do today. Your purpose has been there for a long time, you just haven’t discovered it yet. When you find these patterns put some words around it to make it a statement and then ask yourself why. Here’s an example
Patterns: I played the teacher as a child. I coached my local soccer team. I volunteered as a tutor at uni.
Discovery: I like teaching people – Why?
I love it when it when they get that “aha” moment – why?
I love helping them become a better person.
My purpose: to help others become a better person.
The beauty about knowing your purpose is that it will guide you through your career. You will know when it is time to move to the next stage of your career.
Have I done all I can in achieving my purpose in this role?
Yes – time for a change,
No – what should I do differently/ focus on now?
So instead of focusing just on what you do and how you do it, which is very important and shouldn’t be under estimated, now is the time to also focus on why. It really is the icing on the cake.
Now you can have your cake and eat it to.
I was inspired to write this blog having read Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”. If you find yourself unfulfilled in your career in anyway I highly recommend this book. You can also view is TedTalks on youtube.