John Krumboltz of Stanford echoes the message in an earlier blog post, Is Career “Planning” Actually Career “Improvisation”? in his book, Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career
He notes that people can’t control outcomes of unpredictable life and career situations, but he advocates paying attention to thoughts and actions that hinder progress toward goals — and to modify them with small steps.
Increased mindful attention to habitual patterns can set the conditions for desired outcomes by planning contingencies for undesirable eventualities.
Part of this process is being:
- Open to possibilities that diverge from an original plan
- Willing to consider unexpected opportunities
- Able to risk mistakes and rejection.
This may see demanding and undesirable for goal-directed people with a plan, but Krumboltz’s research demonstrates the effectiveness of these guidelines and other familiar recommendations:
- Research areas of interest
- Ask for what you want
- Keep learning
Similarly, Daniel Pink advises flexibility in career “planning” in his anime-like The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need and questions whether there can be a career “plan”, given many unpredictable possibilities.
Like Peter Drucker and Donald Clifton before him, Pink urges building on existing strengths and finding ways to compensate for less strong areas, rather than investing effort in remedying them.
In addition to familiar suggestions – persist in taking on ambitious challenges while learning from them – he recommends focusing on solving problems for others, and finding a niche to deliver valuable results.
This service-orientation pays dividends as a career development strategy and in “making a difference” in the community and one’s family.
Pink’s later book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us , draws on Frederick Herzberg’s delineation of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
People are motivated, Pink says, by career roles that provide opportunities for:
- Autonomy, exerting control over work content and context
- Mastery, improving skill in work over time through persistence, effort, corrective feedback
- Purpose, participating in an inspiring goal
Finding Work You Love, Measuring Your Life
Pink’s TED Talk demonstrates his passionate advocacy for replacing traditional rewards and recognition with “Motivation 2.0” that provides opportunities for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Draw on strengths
Pink cites Edward Deci’s and Richard Ryan‘s Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET) that investigated variability in intrinsic motivation, and Deci’s Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation which advised managers to adopt “autonomy-supportive” behaviors to encourage employees’ intrinsic motivation.
These varied studies suggest the value of flexibility in career “planning” to capitalize on serendipitous opportunities, and seeking work roles that:
- Draw on strengths
- Enable intrinsic motivators like autonomy, purpose, mastery, and affiliation, instead of focusing primarily on monetary or status rewards.
-*How do you navigate your career in the face of incomplete information about future outcomes?
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