Figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life is a difficult task, especially when most of us are terrible at picking jobs we’ll actually like. Besides your skills and passions, one important yet less obvious guideline for choosing a career is motivational fit.
In the Creativity Post, Dr Heidi Grant Halvorson points out that there are two ways people are motivated to achieve work and life goals: we’re either motivated primarily with a promotion focus or with a prevention focus.
Promotion-focused people see goals as opportunities for rewards and achievements — what they will gain from reaching those goals. They excel at coming up with creative ideas, working quickly, taking risks and thinking abstractly. But they can also be more error-prone.
Prevention-focused people concentrate on security, fulfilling responsibilities, and keeping what they’ve worked so hard for. They excel at analytic thinking, attention to detail, planning, and anticipating problems, but they can work slowly and might not embrace change.
Knowing which one is your dominant focus can help you find a career that’s most fulfilling and engaging for you:
If you are promotion-focused, look for jobs that offer advancement and growth. Consider fast-paced industries where products and services are rapidly changing, and where the ability to identify opportunities will be essential, like the tech sector or social media. To use a sports metaphor, look for a career where you get to play offence — where boldness, speed, and outside-the-box thinking pay off.
If you are prevention-focused, look for jobs that offer you a sense of stability and security. You are good at keeping things running, at handling complexity and always having a Plan B (and C and D) ready at a moment’s notice. Consider careers where your thoroughness and attention to detail are valued — for instance, as a contract lawyer or data guru. You work best when you are playing defence — you can spot a threat a mile away, and protect your company or client from harm.
If you have trouble deciding which is your primary focus, you can try this free online assessment. Hit up the article below for more on your motivational fit. If you’re still stuck, our advice on four ways to figure out what to do with your life.
Reinvent Your Career would like to thank Lifehacker where this article first appeared.