Note: From time to time, I invite posts from friends and colleagues whose insights I think will be of interest. This post from real estate consultant and educator Jeff Peshut discusses how to make decisions that will build a rewarding career.
I once had the pleasure of hearing football coaching great Lou Holtz speak at a real estate conference I was attending. He said that one of the most important things his parents taught him—and I’m paraphrasing here—is that “We are where we are, good or bad, because of the decisions we make and the actions we take.” Of course, the lesson Lou’s parents were teaching him was to always take full personal responsibility for where he was in life, and to recognize that he could improve where he was by making better decisions and taking better actions.
In my roles as an independent real estate consultant at RealAsset Solutions, LLC, an adjunct instructor at Kaplan Real Estate Education and the father of a daughter who is a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, I’m often presented with the opportunity to help people improve where they are by helping them make better decisions and take better actions along their career paths. I’ve found that the key to making better career decisions—and ultimately taking better actions—usually comes down to knowing what criteria to use when making them. To help with that, I provide people with the following advice:
Choose work environments in which you fit, where you can develop your innate talents and interests through work processes that you enjoy that contribute to results you care about.
Let’s break this advice down into its key parts.
1. Work in Environments Where You Fit
This is about the type of people you like to be around. Generally, you can get a pretty good understanding of the work environment by taking a hard look at the person at the top of the organization. After all, people hire people they like and people like people like themselves.
First and foremost, determine whether the work environment is competitive or collaborative and how that fits you. Many companies claim they want collaboration but reward competition. Companies get what the reward, not what they want.
Also, look for signs that the work environment provides recognition and appreciation. Feeling valued and appreciated is an important element of a satisfying career path.
2. Do Work That Develops Your Innate Talents and Interests
This is what you’re naturally good at and interested in. Perhaps even fascinated by.
I like to think of talents and interests as two sides of the same coin. Few if any people have a talent for something but a lack of interest in it. Similarly, people aren’t interested in something if they don’t have a talent for it. Therefore, if you’re not sure of your innate talents, pay attention to your interests. You’ll likely find the answer there.
Once you better understand your innate talents and interests, make sure that your work environment allows you to develop them. Does your supervisor provide guidance and support? Does the company provide growth opportunities?
3. Identify Work Processes That You Enjoy
This is what you naturally like to do. The work processes and work activities that you like to spend your time on. The activities you’ll naturally gravitate towards when you have unstructured or discretionary time.
Some people like to make things. Others like to help other people. I like to gather and organize information, analyze and synthesize it and then explain it to others. Put me in a situation, and that’s what I’ll naturally gravitate towards. (Of course, that’s what I’m doing right now in this post.)
If you don’t like the way you spend your time and energy every day, you’re not going to enjoy your career.
4. Contribute to Results You Care About
This is about what you value. What’s important to you. Unlike work environments in which you fit, your innate talents and interests and the work processes that you enjoy, results that you care about will likely change throughout your work life. Early in your career, you may care more about results that bring you financial security, prestige and growth opportunities. Later in your career, you may care more about results that provide variety, deeper connections with other people and contributions to society.
For example, at some point you may find that purpose becomes more important than pay or prestige. If you find yourself feeling that way, try not to fight it. Go with the flow. It’s natural. After all, it’s not changing that’s painful. It’s resistance to changing that’s painful.
So, if you’re feeling dissatisfied, frustrated and confused about your current career path or position on that path, try evaluating it against the criteria outlined in this post. It will require some introspection and self-reflection—and won’t necessarily be easy—but it’s bound to improve where you are and where you’re headed in your career.