3 Questions To Ask Yourself To Create an Authentic Career: Woman with notebook

3 Questions To Ask Yourself To Create an Authentic Career

I hopped on a Zoom call with a brand new career coaching client, Sarah, who had reached out feeling stuck in her career. We began to talk, and I knew after a few probing questions that we could quickly get to the source of her struggles.

“Why don’t you tell me about the job you have right now?” I asked.

Her bubbly personality went flat and she began to regurgitate a memorized dialog, “I’m a design engineer for a biotech company, I bring new designs to life and work on teams with other engineers” she paused and then admitted, “it’s not exciting anymore.”

I stared through the screen and knew that her authentic self wasn’t shining through in her current role. While she enjoyed the design aspect of her job, something wasn’t aligned correctly.

And yet, more often than not, I know most job seekers are only a few millimeters off course from a career that is truly right for them.

Her reaction hit close to home, as I had spent years relentlessly pursuing a path in national security before I found my calling as a career coach, author, and spokesperson. Not an obvious career pivot, right? And yet, when you follow a career that feels right for you, you will often discover a lot of opportunity on the periphery of that.

Reflecting to Find an Authentic Career

One of the most fragile phases of our career is the in-between period, where we know our current role isn’t working and we’re not yet clear on where we want to go next. This time is sacred and it’s key not to rush it.

In order to get into more career bliss, you must reevaluate and audit where you stand to make adjustments and get back on course.

Here are three tips to build an authentic career that brings out your best strengths:

1. Determine the Role You Take in a Group

Virtual or not, most jobs require interaction with others. Knowing where you stand as a leader and worker within a group will help clarify what career path is best for you, and even what roles to apply for in the future.

The Four Workplace Personas

In the workforce, I have identified four unique types of personas that employees embody:

•  Talent: The person who creates something truly unique that no one else can. This could be designing a new product, formulating a new process, or crafting a thought or speech unlike any others.

•  Manager: The person who inspires and leads people forward. These people love people, and they’re the ones who walk into a room and bring everyone around them to life.

•  Supporter: The person that innately helps execute a vision. These people tend to be task-driven, detail-oriented, and committed to excellence.

•  Entrepreneur: The person who is a visionary problem solver. These people stop at anything, and fully believe, in making the invisible a reality.

For Sarah, she authentically embodied the talent persona but was finding herself stuck being a manager on teams, always having to organize and inspire everyone else around her to carry their own weight. This left her feeling exhausted every day, wondering why she didn’t like being an engineer anymore. The more you begin to recognize and own who you are and how you operate within a team unit, the more enjoyable your career will become.

Questions to Ask Yourself

When I feel most confident at work, how am I operating? Am I the talent, manager, supporter, or entrepreneur?

Take note of how you answer this question over a week or two. At the end of each workday, jot down what moments felt exciting and why. Collecting this insight yourself will help you look back and understand which persona you most closely embody. From here, it becomes easier to shift within your position or know what roles to look for in the future.

2. Define Your Energy

We’ve all experienced someone walking into a room and suddenly changing the vibe, be it in a positive or negative way. A flood of calm can arrive in the room, a wave of excitement or a cloud of darkness…this is their energy.

You might be wondering, what does my energy have to do with my career path? Well, when you become aware of your essence, the energy you operate out of, it becomes easier to notice: who is out there, doing awesome work, with similar energy to mine? This usually is revealing when it comes to different options for career paths that match your energy and even amplify your natural state of being. From here, your career can flow smoother. After all, the more energized your life feels, the larger your capacity to connect, create and grow. Your emotions and the energy of those around you directly relates to how you show up and experience your workday.

Questions to Ask Yourself

How do you think the room feels different when you walk in? What energy are you bringing to the room?

Sarah was focused, joyful, curious, and analytical and while engineering leaned well to her energy, she could also dive into work as a financial analyst, research assistant, or other types of engineering, such as process engineering. One of the biggest mistakes I often see people making in their careers is in limiting themselves to one or two basic job titles, versus realizing that their energy is expansive and that many career paths will suit them.

You are so much bigger than one job title, my friend.

3. Connect to What Motivates You

When the alarm goes off each morning, we all get up for different reasons. There is something motivating you to move, be it money, impact, status, and visibility, or time. In a world where 85% of the workforce spends their day disengaged at work, it’s clear that motivation is lacking. This is coming at a cost to companies and individuals. Motivation, engagement, and productivity go hand-hand. So identifying and connecting with what motivates you will spark your career.

In order to show up for your job, it’s crucial to connect to what motivates you, and take action from this primary driver. In psychology, there is a proven theory, the pleasure principle, that determined people make choices rooted in one of two paths: to avoid pain or to seek out pleasure.

We are either motivated towards feeling good or avoiding the experience of feeling bad.

Applying this theory in your career looks like either choosing something out of inspiration or out of a wound (usually a result of fear or previous pain). While wounded experiences do push us to take action, operating from a place of inspiration is where the gold of your career will ultimately lie… because fear is tiring.

Question to Ask Yourself

Do you lead from fear or inspiration in your career?

We tend to always look at things from a positive perspective, and yet, exploring your own darkness can be a pathway to the light. You’ve likely heard the Jim Rohn quote, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” this idea is based on the law of averages, a theory which calls out that any given situation will be the average of all outcomes.

Take notice of what your coworkers or those around you are motivated by so that you can better honor who they are and contribute to a most expansive environment. You may find yourself slipping into a motivating trend that doesn’t align with you. If everyone is driven purely by money (no judgment there) but you aren’t, this is where disconnects occur, and holding onto your career becomes more difficult.

Sarah worked through these aspects of herself and realized she needed to tweak her career. She transitioned into a process engineering role that was more analytical and the team was completely inspired and driven by impact, her highest core value.

If you are really honest with yourself, and something feels…off… it’s time to evaluate why that may be. Avoiding this question isn’t going to make the struggle dissipate. Face it straight on and embrace the excitement of what changes are to come.

The Takeaway

Working in an unsatisfying job can feel draining and discouraging. Making a change to a more fulfilling career can be overwhelming, but taking time to reflect and figure out what type workplace values are most important to you can help guide your path. Figure out what role you generally take in a group setting, the type of energy you bring to a team, and what motivates you in your day-to-day work can help you find a more rewarding job and a more enjoyable career in the long term.

Making a career change or pivoting to a new industry is a big deal. SoFi’s career services are here to help every step of the way. SoFi members have access to benefits like career counseling, networking tips, and can even build a personalized plan to help them earn their next raise.

Learn more about SoFi member benefits today.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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Ashley Stahl ABOUT Ashley Stahl Ashley Stahl is a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast), and author.

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