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How can working women in India evaluation their options if unhappy in the present role? Career planning tips for Indian women on goals and choices.
By Chitra Iyer
Very few lucky souls have the privilege of loving their work! For most of us, feelings of negativity towards the manager, dissatisfaction with the work content, poor treatment of women employees among other irritants, are common. The worst is when the deal seems sweet enough (good pay, good profile, good team, good terms) but the feeling of ‘something’s missing but I don’t know what’ haunts you.
When faced with dissatisfaction, we tend to react by trying to change the present situation. However, will a better manager or changing our team, job, city or industry really address the real problem? If changes are made for the wrong reasons, it won’t matter where one works or how many jobs/careers one shifts; once the initial excitement of change wears off, the niggling pain-points and the feeling of ‘je ne sais quoi’ tend to return. So, how can we know what really drives us? What the right career changes could be? What would help unleash the true potential of working women in India?
Expert executive coaches suggest a healthy dose of introspection as a pre-requisite to any major professional change or choice. Leveraged correctly, it can be a powerful too for working women in India l to discover their true drivers and harness their true potential by focusing on the root level (cause/thinking) and away from the superficial (effect/ results) level.
Here’s a familiar example. Many people, when asked what they would like to ideally do, say “I’d like to do something of my own….but…I have financial responsibilities/ I’m too old/ I don’t know how/etc.” (The so-called ‘goal’ is accompanied by a ready-made excuse for failing or not even attempting).
Actually, “setting up something’ (or changing your job etc.) is an outcome: a result-level step that could take you closer to meeting your true life goal. Introspection and reflection will move away from the result (own business) and focus on the true goal/driver. In this case, it could be ‘live my life with a sense of empowerment/ reclaim my independence/ leave a legacy’ etc. A more realistic action, therefore, may be to first examine if more independence or empowerment can be built into the present job; than contemplating entrepreneurship.
Introspection and reflection will move away from the result and focus on the true goal/driver.
Not only does the exercise help you identify what really drives you, it reveals realistic solutions and takes away the excuses for inaction. In that sense, it sets you free to address your true drivers and not frustrate yourself chasing false goals with a career change.
Here are some career planning tips for women to help you make the most of introspection and make the right career change – or not. (Let’s assume your conflict is ‘‘I am frustrated because my job demands late nights but my health is suffering”)
1. Focus on your life’s ‘big picture’. What are the vision level goals you see for yourself? (“What does my career mean to me? How important is it for me to keep my job? Where do I see myself 5 years down the line? What am I willing to do to make this happen?”)
2. A goal is a ‘what’ and not a ‘how’. Stay away from details of execution at this time. Focusing on details gives an excuse to avoid real commitment to change.
3. To arrive at your goal, ask yourself a series of open-ended questions that will truly stretch you. If a question is not making you think, it’s not worth asking. (For example, don’t ask “Do I really want health”. Ask “What does ‘health’ really mean to me?” These are ‘thinking questions.)
4. Connect your real-world conflicts to your higher-level (big picture) goals. What are you willing to do to achieve them? What higher goal is fitness and professional success connected to? If thinking questions lead to a connection between ‘fitness and the respect of your children’, suddenly the stakes become higher. You are willing to commit more because you are chasing the respect of your children and not a weight-loss goal (which you may have tried & failed at before). Thus, you can re-assess your profile with your manager based on what truly drives you; or even consider a career change (for the right reasons).
5. Do not focus on the past or the problem; focus on the future. Stay away from ‘why’ questions as they tend to make you defensive, even to yourself. For example, instead of asking “Why did I fail to lose weight the last 5 times I tried”, ask “What could I do differently in my present situation to work in a fitness regimen?’
6. Write down the true goal(s) you arrive at, as well as the action points you are committing to clearly and succinctly
7. If possible, work with a professional executive coach. Some coaches offer one-off advisory sessions. They may also suggest personality/aptitude tests you could take.
8. Use online resources to help you and keep your motivation going. Some that inspire me are Sheela Iyengar’s ‘The Art of Choosing’ videos and the practical tips on goal-setting available at Mind Tools and Livestrong
Being aware of your true life goals helps effect the right career change for the right reasons. Execution becomes more focused; the results are more sustained and you are bound to flourish!
*Image Source: Svilen Milev
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