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Choose your career in technology based on personal needs and character strengths!
What keeps you drawn to your job? People who work in careers that are closest to their personality needs and character strengths are more likely to be successful and happy.
Consider introverts and extroverts. Extroverted people thrive in social and people oriented workplaces, while introverts perform better in independent analytical tasks. Identifying your inherent character strengths (traits) will help you in building a successful career. Also neglecting personal needs at the workplace is one of the reasons for burnout.
So how do you choose or amend your job to have a more fulfilling career? Let’s try to answer this question by asking a few more questions! Ask these three questions to yourself. 1) What are my inherent personal needs. 2) What are my character strengths? 2) What are the different career options available in the area that I am interested in? We will try to answer these questions in the coming sections. The end goal would be to find the overlap in these answers.
Why is working in alignment with your personality needs and character strengths important?
Better Culture fit
Better job performance
Higher job satisfaction
Personality needs and character strengths determines your strengths and growth areas/opportunities at work
Six Basic Human Needs
These are the most basic human needs that will rank in a different order for every individual and will likely determine or influence their behaviors.
Growth - Desire to grow and expand in any area of life
Contribution - Desire to give or serve
Significance - Desire to feel recognized, important, and/or meaningful
Uncertainty (Novelty) - Desire for change, novelty, and exploration
Certainty - Desire to feel safe and secure
Connection - Desire to connect and build relationships with people
Personality needs Our personality needs are the needs that we organize our personality around. They impact our decisions, behavior, everyday work, and connection with others. They are our authentic self coordinates. These can be considered as ways in which we as a person would try to meet the basic six human needs. Example: A person with a high personality need for certainty would have personality traits linked to certainty like security, structure, comfort, clarity etc. The ways in which we try to meet these needs can be positive, negative or neutral.
Personality Traits A personality trait is defined as something about a person that impacts how they tend to think, feel and behave on an ongoing basis. Personality traits are characteristic of enduring behavioral and emotional patterns, rather than isolated occurrences. Tertiary needs are “momentary” for a personality to be organized around. Yet they can be repetitive and show up often as strategies to meet our big personality needs. They are the strategies linked to getting our personality needs and thus six basic human needs met. For example, you can meet your personality needs for certainty in multiple ways like planning your day, having a concrete project plan, creating a draft for your meeting ahead of time, etc.
Character strengths are positive personality traits which are based on 1) what the individual naturally enjoys doing, 2) how the individual deals with adversities. According to Justin Gourley (Data Engineering Director at Meta) character strength is the overlapping part in a Venn diagram. One circle is the individual’s passion (work the individual enjoys doing). The other circle is competency/expertise/track-record. When the two circles overlap, those traits become the individual’s strength.
How to identify your personality and tertiary needs?
Most of us can identify our personality needs based on values and behavior patterns. There is an exhaustive way to rank your needs. I am providing a set of questions* I used to identify them. Try to answer these questions and map your answers to a tertiary or personality need. Then map it to the 6 basic human needs. List down as many answers as possible. You would find a pattern in your answers and sort it based on the frequency of the needs/traits.
What are the patterns behind where you think about the most at work?
What pattern exists in the activities you do the most during your free time?
What tasks do you enjoy doing without any external pressure?
What triggers you the most about work or people you work with?
What do you enjoy the most talking about with your colleagues? What are the general topics that come up in your discussion?
What topics do you naturally enjoy or gravitate towards?
What are the patterns in which you naturally prioritize your work?
How do you spend your money generally?
*Questions are inspired from Thais Gibson’s Personal Development School course: Discover, Embrace & Fulfill Your Personal Needs.
When you answer these questions, list out as many answers as possible. Connect each answer to a character trait (You can use the list given below as a reference. But traits are not limited to list). Sort the trait based on frequency of occurrence. Identify the top traits. Those are your dominant personality/character traits. Now try to map these traits with your track record. (Do not limit this to your career. You can choose examples from personal life, hobby projects, academic work). At the end of the exercise, you should be able to identify your character strengths. You can also use this list to develop/polish some of the skills required for the job you are interested in.
The same method and tools can be used to decide your overall career growth and answer some of the questions mentioned here. Do you want to pursue an Individual Contributor or manager track? Should I work on individual projects or team projects? Which team works the best for you? What project should you work on? Should I work for an employer or should I start my own company? Do I focus on product based roles or research based roles?
How do I map my skills to a “Tech” Job?
When you think about a “tech” job, the stereotype that comes to your mind is of an introverted software engineer hooked onto a laptop and doing endless hours of coding. But the job opportunities in tech are not limited to just coding. There is a way for everyone to feel fulfilled and successful. Also, the modern day tech industry allows you to choose your career in a way you want it to be. It allows you to follow the traditional management track or Individual contributor track. A wide variety of roles are available in the tech industry which will let you choose a career path that suits your personality type.
So let’s get into the steps for choosing a career that suits your personal needs and character strengths. Depending on where you are in your career you can tweak this exercise. If you are looking for a new job you can use this method to identify a job where you will be content and successful. If you are looking for a job change or career change you can use this to find the career that suits you. If you are unhappy with work, this exercise would help you to find the unmet needs at the workplace and come up with strategies to meet them either at the workplace or in other areas of life.
5 step process to map personal needs to personality traits
List out jobs that you are interested in.
List out the responsibilities and day to day activities of the job
Make your personal plan (short term and long term plan) at this job
Now list the personality traits that you would meet in this job
Map your personal needs and character traits (strengths) to the personality needs listed in step 4.
1. List out job/jobs that you are interested in.
First step in the process is to list the roles that you are interested in. If you are switching roles, this would be the new roles you are interested in. If you are a student, this would be the various opportunities that you are interested in exploring post graduation. This should be fairly easy step in the process.
2. List out the responsibilities and day to day activities of the job
The second step in the process is the most important one. This would require a good understanding of the role or the company that you are interested in. This is the research or data collection step in the process. The idea here is to get as much information as possible related to the role that you are interested in. To understand the responsibilities of a role, a good method to follow is to divide the information gathering steps into two. 1) Understand the overall responsibilities of the role. That includes understanding the products/projects you will be working on. The overall impact of your work and the final product. Also take some time to understand the growth opportunities for the role, team and company. There are many ways to gather information about everything listed above. Google is your friend to understand more about the role. Identify experienced people in the area and understand their growth. You necessarily do not need to have a role model. But mentors and following the examples of successful people would help you to come up with a plan for yourself. Pick a product or a project that you are passionate about. You might be “just coding” to develop the product. But it is important to work on a product that you are passionate about in order to have a successful and fulfilling career. Take some time to understand the company culture also. 2) Understand the day to day activities involved with the role. There are multiple ways to gather the information. Build your network way before you start your job hunt. Use your network (Alumni network, LinkedIn network, colleagues etc.) and interview them. Understand how a day looks like in their life. Ask questions about what they like and don’t like about their work. Use other websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Blind etc. to get more details.
3. Make your personal plan (short term and long term plan) at this job
This step is a continuation of the previous step, but it is catered to you. Before stepping into the specifics of the particular role that you are considering, make sure that you are aware of your personal and tertiary needs. Then based on your research in step 2 make a plan for yourself. For better understanding make a short term and long term plan. Short term plan would be a list of your day to day activities, monthly or quarterly deliverables, skill sets that would learn/polish at the job. The long term plan would be your growth strategy in the role. That is very specific to the individual. Ask yourself these cliched questions, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years or 10 years?”. Even if you don't have an answer to the question, this would help you to understand your goals. Sometimes, the answer would be “I do not have a plan. I am exploring my opportunities”. That is perfectly okay! This helps you to understand that the current emphasis should be on short term plans and short term growth. This is the best strategy if you are starting your career.
4. Now list the personality traits that you would meet at this job
This step is for mapping your personality needs and tertiary needs that you would meet at this job. The need a particular job is meeting would be slightly different for each individual. For example, if the job/product (eg: Software Engineer working on a Metaverse product) allows you to come up with a technical solution for an unresolved problem. For one engineer some of the needs the role would meet could be creativity and autonomy. For another person it would be a contribution or significance or connection. Only you would know what need you are meeting at the job.
5. Map your personal needs and character traits (strengths) to the personality needs.
This is the final mapping step. Step 3 and 5 are slightly enmeshed. You might go back and forth to gain better understanding. In the beginning focus on your character strengths. The idea is to choose a job that is already in alignment with your strengths. But also keep in mind that you can always develop new strengths which are required. During this process you might notice that there are traits that you need to strengthen or missing in order to have a succesful career. This is your opportunity to proactively work on those skills.
If a top personality need is missing in the list at step 4, try to see whether there is a way to meet them at the job. It is not necessary that all your tertiary needs are being met at work. It is okay to meet some of them outside of work. For example, you have a need for novelty and exploration, but your job do not allow you to do that. You can try to meet the need by creative ways like working in different offices or may be a cafe. You can also meet this need outside of work by making new plans for weekends and doing new things outside of work.
The idea here is to find a job that is in alignment with your needs. Your personality needs and the needs that can be met at the job should have fair overlap.
This is not the only way to decide what career or job to choose. This is a helpful structure to help you choose a job that is best suited for you or to make small changes in your current role to have a more fulfilling career.
Are these steps valid for me?
If you are looking for a new job this is a good place to start. Find a job that is in alignment with your needs and strengths. If you are unhappy with your current job this is a good way to figure out why you might be unhappy with work. If you are unhappy at work, use this tool and figure out your personal needs. If you have too many unmet needs at work, take intentional effort from your side to meet them at your current job. Give it some time to see whether you feel different or better. If the needle is not moving maybe it's time to move teams or roles.
Also it is okay to explore different roles, pivot and restart your career at any stage. After all a successful career is that you enjoy doing every day! Eventually you will find the job that is best suited for you. Consider finding the right job like dating. As Sheryl Sandberg said in her book, Lean In. '“When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them”. Same applies to your career also. Try out everything that excites you. Eventually you will find the role that is best for you and every role/project/company will teach you something new!