Interview tips – what motivates me about my work?

Now, thinking about your career in general, we’re going to start to work out what’s important to you in your next role.

The next two exercises start to look at your career values – what’s important to you about your work.

Our values are what motivate us and guide our decisions.

It’s important to understand more about them, when job-hunting, to make sure you end up in a career that will satisfy you and to avoid the frustration of working somewhere that doesn’t meet your needs.

What does that really mean?

For example:

It might be really important to you at this stage of your life to be able to spend time with your family and friends, so it would be useful to work for a company that supports that.

Your worst case scenario might be a company that demands lots of overtime and last-minute travelling.

But, if you don’t think about that first, you might end up going for interviews with exactly that type of company – wasting your time. If you end up working there, you’re likely to constantly feel torn between spending time at home and the demands from your work. That’s unlikely to lead to anything other than stress and conflict.

Another important value for you might be recognition of your hard work and achievements.

So you might be happier working for a company that has a structured employee recognition programme. Your worst case scenario could be spending the whole year worrying about whether you’ll get a discretionary bonus at Christmas, despite 12 months of hard work.

By thinking about what’s important to you before you apply for jobs or at least before you go to the interview, you’re increasing your chances of getting a job that motivates you, rather than one you grow to hate.

 Interview tips   what motivates me about my work?

Exercise 3: Assess Your Career Satisfaction

The aim of this exercise is to answer the questions:

  • Which areas of my career are important to me?
  • How satisfied am I currently with these areas?

This can form the basis for deciding the type of job you want.

1. Think about how you would categorise the various important aspects of your career. These might include challenge, growth, learning, work-life balance, responsibility, being able to switch off at the end of the day, etc

2. Pick 8 categories or aspects that seem most important to you. Write them around the circle – one for each segment. If you have more than 8 categories and can’t narrow them down, just sketch another circle, with more segments.

3. Look at each segment of the circle: each of the major categories of your work-life in turn. Think about how satisfied you currently are with that segment, say, on a scale of 1 to 5. Draw a line across the segment to show your satisfaction level. See the example below.

4. Repeat for each segment.

5. Review your results.

Continuing with Emma’s example:

Are there any surprises for you?

What have you learned?

Are there any potential consequences of moving your ratings up to 5/5? (e.g. impact on family, career, hobbies?)

Why was I even in my last job?
It really wasn’t doing much for me. Fascinating!
I’d love to move some of the categories up to 5/5.
I guess the only down side might be that if I’m busy working my way up the career ladder, I’d have to watch I don’t lose touch with my friends.
Is there anything you could change in your current role that would satisfy you?

(In other words: do you really want a new job or just a change in your current position?)

No – too late. Don’t have a job.
But seriously, I don’t think temping in general would give me what I need – even if I could go back to it. At least I can prove it to Mum now.
Where do you want to be going long-term?

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? How could your current career choices support this?

This is a crucial question, because it should be the driving force of your applications.

Review it before replying to any job ad. It’s effectively your long-term goal.

I’d really like to be moving up through the ranks of a company. I’d like a job that matters – one where I can make a difference.
I’m good at organising stuff, so maybe I could start there?

In 5-10 years’ time I’d like to be managing a team of people. (Time to get my own back – ha!) How do my current career choices support this? Well I guess leaving the world of temping is a big step.

End of exercise.
If you are at a point in your career where long-term career aspirations are still appropriate, then it is particularly important not to skim over that part of the exercise.

It can be difficult to imagine where you want to be in 5-10 years. But if you don’t think about it before you apply for your next job, you’re unlikely to be where you want to be in your future. You are more likely to end up somewhere else “by accident”.

If that’s ok for you, then there’s no need to plan. However, employers normally ask about “career aspirations” in interview, so you will need to have thought about your long-term direction by then.

Don’t worry if you find it hard to write down where you want to be. The next two exercises will help you refine your ideas.

Would you like to discover more about what’s important to you in your career?

Find out with the next exercise!

It’s designed to help you uncover more about what is important to you in your work: your career values.

As we have already mentioned, our values guide our decisions and provide our motivation. They are central to our lives, yet we rarely know what they are. They tend to be held at a subconscious level and we often aren’t aware of them, until they are violated – until someone “stamps on them”. This can lead to anger and frustration.

For example, think about the last time you got angry. Stand back from the situation and look at things objectively. Chances are that someone was doing the opposite of what’s important to you – stamping on your values.

Awareness of these values helps you select the right jobs to apply for and avoid wasting time on interviews for roles you don’t really want.

Exercise 4: Career Values

You can do this exercise on your own, by asking yourself the questions. However, it is often easier to ask someone else to read the questions to you, because this helps you really focus on your answers.

Step 1 – What is important to you about work / your career?

It might help you to think about what motivates and interests you. Keep asking this question until you have at least 10 answers.

You may find that after the first few answers you can’t immediately think of any more. Keep going, because sometimes the most important things come out towards the end of your list.

Some of your answers may be the same as the previous exercise – and that’s ok.

At this stage, it’s important to write down whatever comes to mind, without editing or analysing.

Continuing with Emma’s example:

What motivates me? About work? Where do I start? Here goes:

Earning money
having fun
liking the people I work with
learning new stuff
having a point to being there
recognition of my achievements

err… running out here…

work-life balance
challenging – use my brain
job security
nice boss
in a city location

think that’s about it.

Step 2 - Which of the items on your list springs out as the MOST important?

Having a point to being there – enjoying my work

Step 3 – Now put the other values in approximate order of importance.

There’s no need to get this exercise “perfect”. The important thing is to pull out, say, your top 5 values – those which really matter, so you can make sure any jobs you apply for meet them.

1. Enjoying my work

2. Liking the people I work with

3. Learning new stuff

4. Challenging – use my brain

5. Work-life balance – see my friends

6. Recognition of my achievements

7. In a city location

8. Job security

9. Earning good money

10. Nice boss

Step 4 – When you have completed the list above, ask yourself the question:

Do these look like my values?

If yes, continue. If no, go back and look at what might need to change.

End of exercise.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t get a perfect ranking of your values. All you really need at this stage is an understanding of which values are in your top 5 and which are much less important.

By ranking your values, you can make decisions on job applications driven by what’s really important to you.

You’re now in a position to assess a company or job description against your most motivating values and see how it measures up. This means you’re much less likely to end up applying for a job at a company you wouldn’t enjoy working for.

These exercises will have helped you uncover what motivates you about your career and job. By understanding what is important to us, it gets easier to make decisions about the type of jobs we want to apply for.